Is It Safe To Take Fluoxetine (Prozac) During Pregnancy?

Prozac During Pregnancy

Image: Shutterstock

Almost 15% of pregnant women experience depressive symptoms such as overwhelming anger, irritability, sadness, or guilt (1). And, in some cases, antidepressants are the only treatment to battle the condition.

One of the common antidepressants prescribed is Fluoxetine. Here,MomJunction tells you about the use of fluoxetine during pregnancy and its effects on you and the unborn.

What Is Fluoxetine?

Fluoxetine belongs to a group of antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) that alter the levels of serotonin chemical in the brain. They are commonly prescribed to treat depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), eating disorders, panic, and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). This medication is available under different brand names such as Prozac, Sarafem, Oxactin, Prozep, Prozil, and Olena (2).

Several antidepressants are not prescribed during pregnancy. Let’s see if fluoxetine is one such.

Back to top

Can You Take Fluoxetine (Prozac) While Pregnant?

It is safe to take Prozac only if its potential benefits outweigh the possible risks to the mother or the unborn.

Fluoxetine is listed under category C of drugs by the US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA). This means that there are no well-controlled studies on the effects of fluoxetine on human population, unlike studies on animals. Therefore, this medication is only suggested when necessary, and when there is no other option (3).

Back to top

What If You Have Already Taken Fluoxetine (Prozac) During Pregnancy?

If you have been on fluoxetine even before your pregnancy, or have taken it without prescription, then let your doctor know about it. She would decide whether or not to continue with the drug, or might change the dosage. Do not stop taking the medication suddenly as it can be dangerous for you and the unborn.

As a precautionary method, in the next section, we make you aware of the dangers associated with changing or stopping your medication without the supervision of your doctor.

Back to top

Problems Associated With Stopping Fluoxetine (Prozac)?

If you stop taking this antidepressant, you may fall ill and have:

  • headaches
  • lightheadedness
  • tiredness
  • flu-like symptoms,
  • stomach cramps
  • electric shocks in the head
  • sleeplessness
  • see vivid dreams.

This would last for many weeks after discontinuing the medicine (4).

Also, your depression will remain untreated, and you are at higher risk of giving birth to a baby with low birth weight or premature baby, or baby with a slower growth rate.

You will also require medications in higher doses or may have to be hospitalized.

Fluoxetine use is tricky because you have side-effects if you stop it, and you have side-effects if you continue with it.

Back to top

What Are The Side Effects Of Taking Fluoxetine (Prozac) During Pregnancy?

The side effects of Prozac medicine are comparatively less severe than other SSRIs (5), but it is not completely risk-free.

In early pregnancy (one to three months):

  • There have not been enough studies to pinpoint the actual problem associated with fluoxetine in the first few months of pregnancy. Women using the drug in the first trimester are not likely to have an increased risk of malformations in the baby (6). However, there may be an increased risk of heart defects in the fetus and miscarriage with high dose.

In the second and third trimester (four to nine months):

  • Untreated depression will lead to significant complications in pregnancy such as slower growth.
  • Fluoxetine will become less effective in treating depression due to the rapid changes your body undergoes with pregnancy. Therefore, the dosage needs to be increased. But increased dosage poses greater risk of high blood pressure in the third trimester (5).

Delivery time:

  • Untreated depression at the time of delivery can cause sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), premature baby or low birth weight baby.
  • Taking fluoxetine after 20 weeks could create a higher risk of persistent pulmonary hypertension in the newborn (PPHN), causing breathing difficulties.
  • Taking fluoxetine just a few weeks before delivery causes discontinuation symptoms in 30% of newborns. They include crying, irritability, shivering, and sleeping and eating problems. But these symptoms are mild and gradually lessen with time. The likeliness of PPHN and discontinuation symptoms can be lowered by reducing or stopping the dosage before the due date.

To conclude,

Antidepressants are not safe during pregnancy. Your health practitioner will only prescribe the medication if the benefits of taking the drug outweigh the side-effects. Prozac or any other similar medications is linked with risks to the unborn too.

Your doctor may refer you to a counselor who can help you cope with feelings and changed behavior patterns. Also, simple measures such as regular exercises, yoga, proper sleep, and spending time with friends and dear ones can make a great difference.

Back to top

Have you taken any antidepressant such as Prozac during pregnancy? Tell us about it in the comments section below.

The following two tabs change content below.
Profile photo of Rebecca Malachi

Rebecca Malachi

"I believe words have power. They are a powerful tool for a creative soul. Being a 'word addict', I express my thoughts and contribute articles on health, wellness and beauty. Apart from writing, I love listening to gospel music and enjoy observing nature in silence."
Featured Image