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Psychiatrist warns against anti-depressants during pregnancy

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An expert has suggested that people in the medical profession shouldn’t be giving some anti-depressants and anti-psychotic drugs to women of child-bearing age.

Professor Louise Howard, who is head of section of women’s mental health at the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London, says some such drugs can cause problems during pregnancy and half of pregnancies now are unplanned.

She argues that they should therefore not be given to women who could feasibly get pregnant because of their potential to cause damaging side effects for either the women or their unborn children.

“If drugs are contraindicated during pregnancy then it is best that they are avoided in women of reproductive age in general - because 50% of pregnancies are unplanned,” she said.

“That’s just life, we know women will get pregnant when they haven’t intended to, so it’s important to avoid particular drugs.”

Professor Howard cited sodium valproate, which can be used as a mood stabiliser for bipolar patients, as an example because it can lead to foetal malformations or children having a lower IQ.

She added that it is important to assess what the risks and benefits of either taking or not taking the drug to both the foetus and the mother before getting pregnant but reiterated her belief that medication should be avoided if possible.

“Obviously, if you don’t have to use medication we’d rather not - it’s sensible not to expose a foetus to medication if you don’t need to,” she said.

 

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Readers' comments (3)

  • really useful.,

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  • In my personal and professional opinion....nonsense! I am an RMN and used citalopram and also diazepam with G.P's advice before and also whilst pregnant. My child is healthy, happy and actually 3 months advanced in developmental milestones. I would like to make the point that i am obviously of child bearing age and due to an ILLNESS is it the case i should choose between being mentally well OR having children? Of course both are possible at the same time! This statement from the expert i fear could encourage women to stop taking needed medication and cause FAR more damage to unborn children. If a woman needs medication it should be prescribed regardless of age (is not discrimination?) A healthy mum has happy babies. Fact.

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  • This is not news. This advice was included re: e.g valproate was included in SIGN 127 published in March 2012

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