June 21, 2006

Pregnancy and fears raised over anti-psychotic drugs

There is an interesting news report out of Australia on use of anti-psychotic drugs by pregnant women, and fears that the newer drugs are not well-tested enough to be confident that they are not harming the fetus.

The older schizophrenia medications have been used long enough that they are viewed to be OK during pregnancy for people who need anti-psychotic drugs. Overall - it sounds like something any woman should discuss with her doctor if she has concerns. As a generaly word of caution - there is a higher than average risk of birth complications in a situation where a mother has schizophrenia, so its important for these mothers to work extra closely with doctors, and get extra family help and spouse or partner support and be sure to get the recommended prenatal care.

NATASHA JOHNSON: Jane, who doesn't want her real name used, was diagnosed with schizophrenia and responded well to anti-psychotic medication. Once stabilised, she returned to study and work, married and decided to start a family. But with women generally advised to avoid drugs during pregnancy, particularly in the first three months, she faced a difficult decision about whether to stay on the medication that kept her sane.

It's a bit of a risky decision because on the one hand, if I don't take the medication I'm pretty likely or pretty sure to have a relapse and sort of go into a psychosis and I may not be able to take care of my child and then I have to weigh that up against taking the medication and hoping that my baby would be OK.

Jane chose to stay on her medication, was closely monitored and had a healthy baby girl. Her medication is among a new generation of anti-psychotic drugs which have shown good results in treating schizophrenia over the past 15 years. But for ethical reasons, they can't be trialled on pregnant women and haven't been around long enough to convince doctors of their absolute safety.

PROFESSOR JAYASHRI KULKARNI, ALFRED PSYCHIATRY RESEARCH CENTRE: Most clinicians are doing a best-guess approach that they will either hope and pray really hard and keep the patient on the current medication and do lots of ultrasounds and other sorts of measures or clinicians will take the woman off all medication in the belief that that's better for the foetus and that, of course, has its significant dangers because the woman can then relapse.

Read the full story here: Schizophrenia and Pregnancy and Medications
Read past news on this topic:

Atypical antipsychotic medications and pregnancy


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