Not every mother who takes an antidepressant during pregnancy starts doing so after she has become pregnant. Indeed, in many cases the mothers were taking antidepressants before they ever got pregnant, and simply continued their regimen throughout the development of their baby. With more and more cases coming to light about the potential link between antidepressants and the formation of birth defects in the children of mothers on such medicines, the question might be asked why mothers keep taking these medicines and don’t simply stop, like some expectant mothers quit smoking or drinking during pregnancy.

It turns out, however, that the situation may not be as simple as “just stopping.” Information indicates that discontinuing antidepressants can have symptoms as brutal as withdrawals from much more addictive substances like opiate painkillers. These withdrawals can include a number of symptoms such as anxiety and irritability, or more serious ones such as depression. Given that the medicine was originally prescribed to treat depression, getting depressed all over again can be a serious hurdle to clear when trying to come off the pills. Even worse are the strange, unexplained electric shocks that the body will occasionally give itself when withdrawing from antidepressants, known as “brain zaps.” Paxil, in particular, is difficult to come down from, because the body clears the drug from its system relatively quickly after a last dose.

Depression in the expectant mother is already known to have a detrimental effect on the health of the baby. Aggravating this with withdrawal symptoms that come from stepping down off an antidepressant medication — at a time when the mother’s biochemistry has admittedly changed in drastic ways — might not be as easy a solution as some might argue when investigating claims into the link between these medicines and the formation of birth defects. Indeed, this line of reasoning really comes to little more than attempting to blame the victim.

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