Antidepressant Use During Pregnancy Increases Risk of Hypertension

Photo Credit: Ken Hammond (USDA)

A study published online (March 22) in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology says that new research indicates that women who use antidepressants while pregnant have an increased risk of developing pregnancy-induced hypertension.

One would presume that this increased risk is merely caused by the actual depression and anxiety that caused these women to seek the medication in the first place, but the study’s authors (Mary A. De Vera, PhD, from the University of Montreal, and Anick Bérard, PhD, from Sainte Justine Research Center, Montreal, Quebec, Canada) wrote that the increased risk associated with SSRIs and pregnancy-induced hypertension is beyond the risk that would be naturally attributed to their depression or anxiety disorders.

Antidepressant use during pregnancy was associated with a 53% increased risk for pregnancy-induced hypertension. Use of SSRIs was associated with a 60% increased risk.

The study claimed that up to 14% of pregnant women use antidepressants which is the real startling information I took from the write up. I question why, during all of the seemingly endless blood tests during early pregnancy, women are not regularly tested for a vitamin D deficiency which often  causes both depression and anxiety and incidentally also can cause pre-eclampsia (pregnancy-induced hypertension.)

The Vitamin D Council strongly urges anyone at risk for deficiency, including pregnant women to have their vitamin D levels checked.

Meanwhile, the authors of this study urge pregnant women not to stop taking their medications.  According to Medscape, Dr. Bérard said, “It is very important for physicians and women to discuss the risks and benefits of antidepressants before prescribing. Close monitoring needs to be done, because there could be benefits, and there can also be risks. The message isn’t as simple as telling pregnant women to stop taking antidepressants.”

I understand that not all depression, anxiety and pregnancy- induced hypertension is caused from a lack of vitamin D, but given these new risks, I simply wish that this very simple blood test was also checked on the lab of pregnant women because pre-eclampsia can lead to eclampsia which is a very serious condition which is fatal in 2% of symptomatic cases. Even more common though, pregnancy-induced hypertension often leads to induction of labor or cesarean section. How many lives could be saved, how many births could come naturally, how many women could be spared a frightening pregnancy with simply the introduction of a 10 dollar supplement that can be picked up at the supermarket?

If you are pregnant, why not take the Vitamin D Councils suggestion and ask your doctor or midwife for a blood test?  If you’re too reserved for that though, you could always buy your own in-home test and then share the results with your medical professional if they show a vitamin D deficiency. You will not be able to get right off of your medication, but with help and guidance from your doctor, you may be able to wean off of it safely. If you test yourself at home, please be sure to take your findings to your medical practitioner, it is very unsafe to get off of these drugs alone.

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  1. Pingback: I think Vitamin D Might Need a Super Hero Name. — Everything Birth's Blog on Midwifery, Attachment Parenting, Cloth Diapers and More

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