The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has called for an increase in research on the potential risks of taking antidepressants during pregnancy. Currently there is no consensus on what the safest antidepressant medication option is for a pregnant mother and her unborn fetus. As prescriptions of antidepressants is common, the CDC believe healthcare professionals and women need more evidence based information on the potential risks of antidepressants treatment during and between, pregnancies.

Analyzing data from Truven Health’s MarketScan Commercial Claims and Encounters, the CDC found that 15.4% of women aged 15-44 – who had private employer-sponsored insurance – had filled at least one prescription for an antidepressant during a single year. Considering that half of all U.S. pregnancies are unplanned, it is very likely that antidepressant use will occur during the critical first weeks of a pregnancy.

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The Truven data covered the years 2008–2013, with each year including an average of 5.8 million women. The prescriptions filled remained consistent over the years of the study. The most commonly filled prescription was for sertraline (3.3%), followed by bupropion (2.7%), citalopram (2.6%), escitalopram (2.5%), and fluoxetine (2.3%).

The study is limited, in that it analyzed privately insured women. Fifty percent of births in the U.S. occur to women with Medicaid coverage, and this population has shown a higher prevalence of antidepressant use in previous studies. Even so, the authors assert that the large, geographically disperse sample in this study, and their high prevalence of antidepressant claims highlight the real need for evidence-based guidance.

To achieve this goal, the CDC’s clinical pregnancy program Treating for Two is aiming to “accelerate research on antidepressant safety during pregnancy to provide evidence-based information for healthcare professionals to effectively weigh the risks and benefits of treatment options.”