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Your Mental Health Care & Birth Defects

by R. Carnavale December 2nd, 2014 | Health Observance, Mental Health
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glass of wine (1280x1280)When you’re pregnant, you can help maintain your mental health before, during and after pregnancy by taking extra care about what you put in your body so that you can help prevent birth defects from occurring in your unborn baby. If you’re self-medicating or using prescription drugs to treat a mental illness, you’ll want to inform all of your doctors about your pregnancy and what medications you’re taking in order to ensure the health and well being of you and your unborn baby. If you’re currently using any of the following substances for any reason, be sure to ask your physicians about how to prevent birth defects so that your baby can be healthy and you can be mentally well:

Alcohol — many women self-medicate with alcohol to treat anxiety, but research shows that drinking ANY amount of alcohol during your pregnancy can harm your baby. Heavy drinking can cause Fetal Alcohol Syndrome that hurts your baby’s brain, causing poor memory, attention deficits, poor cause-effect reasoning and predisposition to drug addiction and mental health problems. Women who are light drinkers also put their babies at risk of learning and behavioral problems like hyperactivity and learning disorders and the inability to make sound judgments and to understand cause and effect. For more information about the effects of alcohol on your unborn baby, see this helpful article on Drinking During Pregnancy.

Antidepressants — If you’re pregnant and taking an antidepressant, consult with your doctor regarding dosage or the need to switch to another product. Selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors, or SSRIs have been shown to cause heart defects, especially if taken early in a pregnancy. (See Antidepressants Linked to Birth Defect for more information.)

Antipsychotics — If you’re taking medicine for a psychiatric disorder, be sure to notify all of your doctors about the medicine and your pregnancy. Antipsychotic medication can cause serious birth defects like cleft palate, heart abnormalities, decreased growth in your unborn baby, and fetal death. The results of research studies on the effects of taking antipsychotics during pregnancy are described in this somewhat technical article The Potential Risks of Commonly Prescribed Antipsychotics. Again, consult with your doctors to ensure your mental well-being and your unborn baby’s health.

Vitamin A palmitate — a synthetic vitamin form of vitamin A (as opposed to a natural source, like carrots) is sometimes used to treat anxiety. Unfortunately, too much synthetic vitamin A can cause birth defects,┬áincluding malformations of the eye, skull, lungs, and heart. For more information, see this National Institutes of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements’ fact sheet on Vitamin A.

(Photo courtesy of Hans Thoursie)

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All health and medical information is provided for educational purposes and is not meant to replace the medical advice or treatment of your healthcare professional.