New insights into antidepressants during pregnancy

Antidepressants prescribed for pregnant women seem to interact with the synthetic estrogen enzyme, aromatase, demonstrates a study published recently by researchers from the National Institute for Scientific Research.
This is an important breakthrough because the production of estrogen is essential for the development of the child and the physiological adaptation of the mother during pregnancy.

“Pregnancy depression is really a public health problem and a big problem for pregnant women,” said Professor Cathy Vaillancourt. It represents more than 10 percent (of pregnant women). And women who were depressed before they got pregnant, if they stop the drug, they’re going to have a relapse in 75 percent of the cases. ”

The prescription of antidepressants in pregnant women is controversial. Studies show that administering some of these treatments to the mother during pregnancy is associated with a risk of heart and lung defects in the newborn. Other antidepressants could cause cognitive development disorders in children, such as autism.

The harmful effect of antidepressants would come from their interaction with certain key hormones present in our body. The majority of depression medications prescribed to pregnant women target serotonin, a hormone produced both in the brain and in the placenta.

“Antidepressants are used, but it’s still for clinicians and obstetricians, which is better? Give a medicine or give nothing? There are no drugs that are 100 percent “safe,” said Ms. Vaillancourt.

Researchers tested the effect of different types of antidepressants on samples of placenta recovered after delivery. There are indications that they have a closer look at the effect of these molecules on estrogen.

“It was the discovery of André-Anne Hudon-Thibault, the major discovery of his doctoral thesis, which showed that antidepressants will also have an action on the synthetic enzyme of estrogen, so they will affect estrogen production in the placenta, not just serotonin, ”said Vaillancourt.

Not all antidepressants will have a harmful effect. Certain molecules may have a lesser interaction with estrogen, and therefore be less damaging to the development of the fetus.

The work of Professor Vaillancourt and her colleagues could make it easier to choose the type of antidepressant and the dose to use in pregnant women, while minimizing the side effects on the course of pregnancy and on the development of the fetus.

“If you don’t have a healthy placenta, you don’t have a healthy baby, and it’s the first place we have to try to see if any drugs are having an impact,” said Vaillancourt.

The results of this study were published in the journal The Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

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