Depressed woman STOCK
Millennials and postpartum depression
02:08 - Source: CNN

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About 15% of women of reproductive age had an antidepressant prescription in the last year

Many of them could unknowingly take antidepressants during early pregnancy

Experts: Talk with doctor about the risks and benefits of antidepressants during pregnancy

CNN  — 

An estimated 15% of women in their reproductive years take antidepressants, raising concerns about the possibility of birth defects associated with these medications, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Depression is a debilitating condition that affects about 30% of women between 18 and 44 years of age, and if untreated may lead to more mental health problems and increase the risk of heart disease and other conditions. This week, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommended screening all adults – and pregnant women and women who recently gave birth, in particular – for depression at least once.

However, there have been some worrying reports that taking certain antidepressants during pregnancy might also increase the risk of rare birth defects in the heart, brain and other organs.

Another concern is that many women taking antidepressants may not even realize they are pregnant, at least for the first few weeks. About half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned.

“Early pregnancy is time that is critical for baby’s development and because so many women may be taking medications without knowing they are pregnant, we wanted to get a better sense of trends of antidepressant use of all women of reproductive age,” said Jennifer N. Lind, epidemiologist in the CDC’s Birth Defects Branch and co-author of the report that was released on Thursday in the CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The researchers found that 13.8% of women 25 to 29 years old and 16.7% of women 30 to 34 years old had been prescribed at least one antidepressant between 2008 and 2013. The rate of prescribing is highest among the oldest age group of women, 20.9% among women 40-44 compared with only 8.3% among women 15 to 19.

The most commonly prescribed antidepressants across all the women in the study were Zoloft (sertraline) and Wellbutrin (bupropion). Among women between 25 and 34, the most common were Zoloft and Oleptro (trazodone).

It is unclear from the data if the women who filled a prescription actually took the medication, Lind said. Researchers used data on prescriptions among women who had private insurance, although research has suggested that rates of prescribing could be higher among women on Medicaid.

The report recommends that the many women of reproductive age who are taking antidepressants, as well as those who are considering taking antidepressants, talk with their doctors, ideally before they become pregnant, about which treatment option is best for them and their baby. Counseling can also be part of treatment, in addition to or as an alternative to antidepressants

“We understand that many women need to take antidepressants to appropriately manage their health condition, and women shouldn’t stop or change their routine without talking with their health care provider,” Lind said.

“I think every pati