Antidepressants, Antipsychotics, and Mood Stabilizers in Pregnancy: What Do We Know and How Should We Treat Pregnant Women with Depression

Asher Ornoy, Liza Weinstein-Fudim, Zivanit Ergaz

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Depression is generally treated with antidepressants, but may often need antipsychotics and mood stabilizers. We discuss the updated data regarding the safety in pregnancy of antidepressants and antipsychotics, except selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, and their possible impact on the long-term development of the offspring. Several earlier studies demonstrated a slight increase in the rate of major anomalies following maternal tricyclic antidepressant treatment, but most current literature shows their relative safety in pregnancy. Data on the development of the offspring are also reassuring. The antipsychotic drugs are also safe for the developing fetus and do not seem to induce developmental delay. Both groups of drugs may cause perinatal withdrawal symptoms and difficulties in neonatal adaptation. The mood stabilizers, lithium, and several anti-epileptic drugs, may adversely affect the developing embryo and fetus. While valproic acid, carbamazepine, and topiramate are teratogenic and may also affect postnatal development, the newer antiepileptic and mood stabilizers, lamotrigine and levetiracetam, seem to be safe in pregnancy and apparently have no long-term neurodevelopmental damage. Lithium may increase the rate of cardiac anomalies, especially of Ebstein's anomaly, and may warrant a mid-trimester fetal echocardiography. Although data on the development of the offspring are reassuring, we should remember that most studies were carried out during early childhood, at a time when inattention, learning difficulties, behavioral and psychiatric problems are not yet identifiable. When considering medical treatment for depression in women at child-bearing age, we have to weigh the severity of the symptoms and their impact on the developing fetus and child. Birth Defects Research 109:933–956, 2017.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)933-956
Number of pages24
JournalBirth Defects Research
Issue number12
StatePublished - 17 Jul 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • anomalies
  • antipsychotics
  • development
  • mood stabilizers
  • pregnancy
  • tricyclic antidepressant


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