Antidepressants and Birth Control Pills

Many sources say there is no problem taking birth control pills and most antidepressants at the same time.

Antidepressants and Pregnancy

Antidepressants, however, can produce serious birth defects when taken by the pregnant mother. Different classes of antidepressant medications can produce different kinds of birth defects. For example, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) have been associated with the following birth defects:

  • Persistent pulmonary hypertension (PPHN), a serious, potentially fatal lung disorder
  • Septal heart defect, a hole in the membrane between the heart's chambers
  • Anencephaly, a fatal severely damaged skull and brain
  • Craniosynostosis, a condition in which the joints of the skull close prematurely, causing an unusually shaped head leading to brain damage
  • Omphalocele, a defect of the muscles of the abdominal wall allowing the intestines and liver to be outside the abdomen in a sac
  • Heart defects

Other types of antidepressants can cause limb deformities in the baby, respiratory problems, too little oxygen in the blood, tremors, irritability, seizures and excessive crying.

Antidepressants and Breast Feeding

The general consensus is that the breast-fed infant is not harmed if the mother takes antidepressants. In fact, there seems to be a greater negative impact on the baby if the mother's depression is untreated.

"There's such extensive literature about the potential negative impact of a mother's depression on her children," according to Dr. Victoria Hendrick, professor of psychiatry at UCLA School of Medicine.

She said they have lower IQ scores, they don't attach as securely with their mother, and as they grow up they tend to be more aggressive towards other children.

Numerous studies at several U.S. medical institutions were analyzed by Dr. Katherine L. Wisner, director of Women's Behavioral Health Care at the University of Pittsburg's Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic. Two decades of research showed that if a nursing mother takes an antidepressant only a minute amount of the drug is passed to the baby. Often, the amount of the drug is so small, it cannot be detected in a laboratory.

Zoloft® and Paxil® were found to be the best drugs for breast-feeding mothers. The levels of the drugs in their milk were undetectable. Prozac® was detected in the blood of breast-fed babies. The babies did tend to be more nervous, irritable, and had stomach upsets, but these side effects were short term and did not harm the infants, according to Wisner.

"Even with Prozac®, the majority of the kids do fine," she said.

Alternative Forms of Treating Depression in Pregnant Women

Individual and group therapy can help alleviate depression in pregnant women who do not take antidepressants. It is not yet known if St. Johns wort or other herbal products are safe during pregnancy because the quality and strength of the products can vary.

If you were prescribed an antidepressant during your pregnancy and your child was born with a birth defect, you might be eligible for financial compensation through an antidepressant birth injury lawsuit. For information about these types of claims, please contact our antidepressant birth defect lawyers today.

Side Effects

Certain antidepressants have been linked to an increased risk of birth defects in babies whose mothers take them while pregnant.

Antidepressants that may be dangerous to developing fetuses include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • Prozac®
  • Paxil®
  • Celexa®
  • Effexor®
  • Lexapro®
  • Luvox®
  • Prostig®
  • Zoloft®
  • Sarafem®

Types of Birth Defects

  • Persistent pulmonary hypertension (PPHN)
  • Heart defects
  • Brain and spinal cord defects
  • Abdominal defects
  • Limb defects
  • Congenital abnormalities