Drug Safety

, Volume 20, Issue 2, pp 171–186 | Cite as

Treatment of Anxiety During Pregnancy

Effects of Psychotropic Drug Treatment on the Developing Fetus
Review Article


Pregnancy is a time of great emotional change for a woman, producing increased stress and anxiety. Medication may be required for the treatment of anxiety disorders at this time. Given the fact that psychotropic drugs readily cross the placenta and could have important implications for the developing fetus, it is necessary to balance the possible effects of medication against the potential effects to both the mother and fetus if the anxiety disorder is left untreated.

Despite the widespread use of psychotropic drugs such as benzodiazepines and antidepressants during pregnancy, there is a paucity of information regarding the effect of such exposure on the developing fetus.

From a review of the literature it is clear that the issue of safety of psychotropic drugs during pregnancy is far from resolved. While some of the findings from animal studies are alarming, these studies cannot be directly extrapolated to humans. In addition, varying sample sizes and multiple drug exposures further complicate interpretation of human studies.

Nonpharmacological treatments such as cognitive behavioural therapy should be employed whenever possible for the treatment of anxiety disorders during pregnancy. However, if medication is required pregnant women should be prescribed the lowest dosage for the minimum amount of time.


Diazepam Adis International Limited Fluoxetine Imipramine Panic Disorder 


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Copyright information

© Adis International Limited 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Caroline McGrath
    • 1
  • Anne Buist
    • 2
  • Trevor R. Norman
    • 1
  1. 1.University of MelbourneHeidelbergAustralia
  2. 2.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of MelbourneAustralia

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