Link Between Antidepressants During Pregnancy and Birth Defects Interview with:
Anick Bérard PhD FISPE

Research chair FRQ-S on Medications and Pregnancy and
Director, Réseau Québécois de recherche sur le médicament (RQRM)
and Professor, Research Chair on Medications, Pregnancy and Lactation
Faculty of Pharmacy University of Montreal and
Director, Research Unit on Medications and Pregnancy
Research Center CHU Ste-Justine What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: We have over 20 years of research showing that antidepressant use during the first trimester of pregnancy increases the risk of major congenital malformations. However, it still remains that controversies exist because we are not sure which of this increased risk is due to maternal depression. Therefore, we have only studied depressed pregnant women – some of them did not take antidepressant during pregnancy.

We were able to show that among depressed pregnant women, those who took antidepressants were at increased risk of having children with malformations – especially those taking citalopram. We were also able to show that many SSRIs, SNRI and tricyclic antidepressants put women at increased risk of having children with various malformations due to their similar mechanism of action (serotonin inhibition in utero). What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Depression is a serious condition that requires medical attention during pregnancy. However, given that up to 85% of depressed pregnant women have mild to moderate depression – other treatment (other than antidepressants) options need to be considered. If a woman finds out she is pregnant and is taking antidepressants however, no abrupt discontinuation is suggested and a discussion with a health care provider is advised. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: Very few data on the benefits of antidepressant use during pregnancy is available within depressed pregnant women with mild to moderate depression. Our study results taken together with all the body of literature on this topic should lead to other research on the benefits and risks of other forms of treatment for depression such as psychotherapy. Thank you for your contribution to the community.


Anick Bérard, Jinping Zhao and Odile Sheehy. Antidepressant use during pregnancy and the risk of major congenital malformations in a cohort of depressed pregnant women: An updated analysis of the Quebec Pregnancy Cohort. BMJ Open, January 2017 DOI: 10.1136/bmjopen-2016-01337

Note: Content is Not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider regarding your specific medical condition and questions.

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Last Updated on January 20, 2017 by Marie Benz MD FAAD