Is Zoloft Safe During Pregnancy: What You Should Know

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Is Zoloft Safe During Pregnancy? Depression poses a significant risk to the health and well-being of pregnant women, inadvertently affecting their unborn children. However, untreated depression during pregnancy can also cause serious health issues for the mother-to-be and her baby.

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Is Zoloft Safe During Pregnancy?

Major depressive disorder is a mental illness that affects about 29 in 1000 pregnant women, increasing the risk of premature birth and other birth defects. In addition, it can cause the mother-to-be to have difficulty taking care of herself and her unborn baby, such as eating healthy and getting prenatal care. It also increases the chances of postpartum depression.

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), like Zoloft, are the most prescribed antidepressant medications for women suffering from depression during pregnancy. These are generally safe and effective for treating depression. However, they may present health risks to the mother and fetus if taken during pregnancy.

It is crucial for a mother-to-be and her doctor to carefully weigh the risks and benefits before taking Zoloft during pregnancy.

Should You Stop Zoloft When You Find Out You’re Pregnant?

Zoloft, also known by its generic name sertraline, is an SSRI that is effective in treating certain mental health conditions such as:

  • Major depressive disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • Anxiety disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)

It increases serotonin levels in the brain, which are neurotransmitters or chemical messengers that help regulate mood and emotions.

Unfortunately, using Zoloft alone during pregnancy may lead to an increased risk of serotonin syndrome, a potentially life-threatening condition in which too much serotonin builds up in the body. This imbalance of serotonin can cause symptoms such as:

  • Agitation
  • Abnormal heart rate
  • Diarrhea
  • Hallucinations
  • High blood pressure
  • Loss of coordination
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Restlessness

These symptoms can be dangerous for the mother’s health and cause adverse effects on the baby’s development. For this reason, it is essential to consult with a doctor to determine if Zoloft is a safe choice for treating depression during pregnancy.

Women taking Zoloft who find out they are pregnant should not stop taking the medication suddenly without consulting their doctor first. Abruptly stopping the use of Zoloft can have serious side effects and can worsen the symptoms of depression. They can also experience withdrawal symptoms such as:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Excessive sweating
  • Abdominal pain
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion

Pregnant women who use Zoloft should always consult their doctor before altering their medication. The doctor can advise the best course of action based on the severity of the depression and the risks associated with taking Zoloft.

How Is Zoloft Safe During Pregnancy?

Many studies have been conducted to ascertain the safety and efficacy of taking Zoloft during pregnancy, but the results are inconclusive. Therefore, while Zoloft has been deemed safe during pregnancy, pregnant women should still take it cautiously.

In a study about the various patterns of antidepressant use, it was found that all patterns of use during pregnancy are associated with an increased risk of neonatal distress and birth defects. This included pregnant women who reduced their dosage and stopped using antidepressants early in their pregnancy. Additionally, moderate to high antidepressant use heightened the risk of premature birth.

When taken in the third trimester, Zoloft can increase the likelihood of withdrawal symptoms in newborn babies. Common withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Jitteriness
  • Irritability
  • Breathing problems
  • Seizures
  • Muscle spasms
  • Tremors
  • Vomiting
  • Hyperactive reflexes
  • Low blood sugar
  • Delayed feeding ability

These withdrawal symptoms usually go away within two to four weeks after birth.

In a 2016 study about the correlation between antidepressant use and miscarriage, different groups of pregnant women were studied, including:

  • Depressed pregnant women taking antidepressant medications
  • Depressed pregnant women not taking antidepressants
  • Non-depressed pregnant women not taking antidepressants

Even after accounting for induced abortions, the study found that pregnant women taking antidepressants in the first trimester had a higher chance of miscarriage than those who did not take antidepressants.

In general, doctors recommend that pregnant women should only take the lowest effective dosage necessary to treat their depression during their pregnancy. Higher doses increase the risk of adverse effects on the pregnant woman and her unborn baby.

Zoloft is available in 25, 50, and 100 mg tablets, but doctors typically prescribe 25 or 50 mg daily for pregnant women.

Additionally, doctors advise pregnant women to take only one antidepressant medication at a time. This is to prevent the risk of serotonin syndrome, seizures, mania or hypomania, and other adverse effects of Zoloft.

Is Zoloft Safe To Take While Breastfeeding?

There is only a tiny amount of Zoloft that transfers into the breastmilk, so it is generally safe to take Zoloft while breastfeeding. Sertraline is also undetectable in the plasma values of infants whose mothers took Zoloft, so it is unlikely to cause any side effects in the baby. Additionally, the lactation risk category of Zoloft is rated as L2, which means that it’s on the safer side of the spectrum.

While the amount of the drug that passes through to a baby’s bloodstream is likely to be low, there is still some risk involved with taking Zoloft while breastfeeding, such as:

  • Irritability
  • Weight loss
  • Diarrhea
  • Decreased feeding
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Colic or the excessive and prolonged crying or fussiness of a newborn

It is still vital to consult a doctor before taking Zoloft and other antidepressant medications while breastfeeding.

Is Zoloft Safe During Pregnancy?

What Other Antidepressants Are Safe During Pregnancy and Breastfeeding?

Other antidepressants may be considered safe to take during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. After SSRIs, serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) are the second-most prescribed antidepressant medications. Examples of SNRIs include:

  • Cymbalta (duloxetine)
  • Effexor or Effexor XR (venlafaxine)

Wellbutrin, Wellbutrin SR, and Forfivo XL are bupropion-based antidepressants that are also generally safe to take during pregnancy. They may not be the first option for doctors to prescribe, but they can be used if other medications are not working or are unsuitable for pregnant women. Unfortunately, taking bupropion may increase the risk of miscarriages and heart defects in some cases.

Tricyclic antidepressants are also considered safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding, though they tend to be prescribed less often due to potential side effects. Examples of tricyclic antidepressants include Pamelor (nortriptyline), Norpramin (desipramine), and Anafranil (clomipramine). However, Anafranil is not recommended for pregnant women due to possible heart problems or congenital disabilities.

SSRI Antidepressants During Pregnancy

Aside from Zoloft or sertraline, there are other selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) that doctors may prescribe to pregnant women. Example brands and generic names of these SSRIs include:

  • Celexa (citalopram)
  • Paxil (paroxetine)
  • Prozac (fluoxetine)
  • Lexapro (escitalopram)

While most SSRIs are not linked with congenital disabilities, Paxil or paroxetine may be associated with an increased risk of fetal heart defect, discouraging doctors from prescribing it to pregnant women.

Is Zoloft Safer Than Other Antidepressants During Pregnancy?

Zoloft is generally one of the safest antidepressant medications that can be taken during pregnancy. Compared to other SSRIs and antidepressants, Zoloft or sertraline is the least likely to cause harm or other side effects to an unborn baby.

However, this doesn’t mean that Zoloft is not without risks. Taking any medication during pregnancy poses potential dangers to the expecting mother and her unborn baby, so it is vital to weigh all the pros and cons in consultation with an experienced doctor before taking any medications while pregnant.

What Category Is Zoloft for Pregnancy?

The FDA categorizes medications according to their possible dangers to pregnant women and unborn babies. Zoloft is classified as “Pregnancy Category C,” which means it is unknown whether the drug is safe for use during pregnancy or if it will cause harm to the unborn baby.

The possible risks of medications under Category C cannot be ruled out since studies involving pregnant women have not produced satisfactory results. Additionally, animal studies conducted with these medications revealed a risk to the unborn baby. However, Category C medications may have potential benefits that outweigh the risks.

Expecting mothers considering using Zoloft during maternity need to discuss all the risks and benefits with their doctor. The doctor will consider all the relevant factors to decide whether or not it is safe to take Zoloft to treat depression during pregnancy.

When To See a Doctor

Zoloft or sertraline is generally considered safe to treat depression during pregnancy and breastfeeding. While there may be some risks involved with taking Zoloft while pregnant or breastfeeding, the benefits may outweigh these risks.

It is essential for women who are already taking Zoloft for their depression treatment and planning to get pregnant to consult a doctor before making any sudden changes to existing medication. Additionally, women who just found out they are pregnant should see a doctor as soon as possible to evaluate their mental health and depression treatment.

The doctor can discuss the potential risks and benefits of taking Zoloft while pregnant or breastfeeding and decide on an appropriate treatment for you. Whether adjusting the dose of Zoloft, discontinuing it entirely, or exploring another treatment option such as psychotherapy, it is vital to have a plan with clear professional instructions.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Many women have taken antidepressants during pregnancy, significantly when the potential benefits outweigh the possible risks of taking antidepressants. These medications can be beneficial for managing depression symptoms and preventing further episodes of depression during and after pregnancy. Your doctor will determine the best antidepressant medication, dosage, and duration depending on your health, pregnancy history, and mental health.

Zoloft can significantly affect a woman’s sexual functions, usually decreasing libido and satisfaction with sexual activities. However, it is not known to be associated with infertility or reduced fertility.

It is still very much possible to get pregnant while taking Zoloft. However, it is critical to talk to a doctor if you are planning to get pregnant to assess potential risks and adjust the dose or switch medications if needed.

If you’re dealing with depression and become pregnant, your doctor might recommend you continue your regular Zoloft schedule, as this antidepressant is relatively safe for pregnant women. However, despite being considered safe for pregnancy, it still comes with a few risks.

According to Hopkins Medicine, about 30 percent of infants from mothers regularly taking SSRIs exhibit symptoms of neonatal adaptation syndrome. Temporary respiratory problems and increased shakiness characterize neonatal adaptation syndrome.

Most of these symptoms fade as the baby grows, but it is important to always talk to a doctor about any potential risks of taking Zoloft during pregnancy.

Most doctors recommend the lowest dosage necessary to treat depression during pregnancy. Usually, this is between 25 and 50 mg of Zoloft per day. However, your doctor will assess your specific condition to decide on the best amount of dosage for you.

Many people ask is Zoloft safe during pregnancy. The safest type of antidepressant for pregnancy is typically SSRIs, with Zoloft or sertraline as the most commonly recommended option. However, other types of antidepressants may be necessary depending on the severity of depression and how it affects each individual. Your doctor will determine the safest antidepressant for your particular case.

The content on Doctor Alexa’s blog is reviewed by Advanced practice registered nurses or pharmacist and is intended for educational purposes only. This information should not be relied upon as professional medical counsel. Be sure to always consult with your physician about the dangers and benefits of any medication, treatment or procedure.

You shouldn’t wait to see the doctor for simple health needs.