Please note: This information was current at the time of publication but now may be out of date. This handout provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. For regularly updated information on a variety of health topics, please visit familydoctor.org, the AAFP patient education website.

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Am Fam Physician. 2002;66(4):639

What mental problems may occur during pregnancy?

Any mental problem may occur during pregnancy. These problems include depression, manic-depressive disorder, anxiety disorders, and schizophrenia (say: skit-zoh-free-nia).

Can pregnancy cause these mental problems? Does it make them worse?

Pregnancy does not seem to cause these disorders. The major mental problems usually start between the teenaged years and the 30s. This just happens to be the same time in which women often get pregnant.

For six to eight weeks after a baby is born, mood disorders like major depression and manic-depressive disorder might start or get worse. Postpartum depression (also called “the baby blues”) also occurs some time after delivery.

Are mental health medicines safe to use during pregnancy?

Yes and no. Some medicines can be used in pregnant women the same way they are used in women who are not pregnant. Some medicines should not be used at all during pregnancy. Some medicines can be used during pregnancy if the doctor keeps a careful watch on the mother.

Whether you should use these medicines depends on your situation and your needs. You and your doctor will have to balance the risks of these medicines with the severity of your mental problem. Some women have a severe mental problem that could be dangerous or even life-threatening if they stop taking their medicine. Other women have problems that could be managed with psychotherapy and close attention from the doctor, but without medicine.

No decision is entirely free of risks. Your doctor (possibly with the help of a mental health professional) will help you make a treatment plan to manage your mental problem during your pregnancy. This plan may include medicine and other forms of therapy.

What should I do if I have a history of a mental disorder and want to get pregnant?

Most women with mental problems are able to have a safe and successful pregnancy if a treatment plan is made before they get pregnant. Talk with your doctor (and maybe a mental health professional) before you try to get pregnant. This way a treatment plan will be ready for managing your disorder.

What if I get pregnant while I am taking a mental health medicine?

If you get pregnant, call your doctor right away. Your doctor can tell you how safe it is to keep taking your medicine.

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