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Expert Opin Pharmacother. 2000 Jul;1(5):903-16.

Women's issues in mood disorders.

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Department of Psychiatry & Behavioural Sciences, University of Miami, School of Medicine, D79, 1400 NW 10 Avenue, Ste 304A, Miami, FL 33136, USA.


Since the introduction of antidepressants in the 1950s, it was assumed for the next several decades that there were no special reasons to look at the application of these medications to women. In the past half-century, particularly in the past decade, since the advent of the selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRI), a series of specific foci have developed. Firstly, there appear to be differences in the degree of response to particular antidepressants between the genders. Secondly, there is data concerning hormonal effects of particular relevance to women, i.e. prolactin, which separates out among the antidepressants. Also of concern to women are the potential teratogenic effects of these medications, which impact on their use during pregnancy. Finally, there are certain diagnostic syndromes that are particularly relevant to women: premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD); postpartum depression (PPD) and perimenopausal depression (PMD). It appears that the SSRIs may be more effective, relative to the older tricyclic antidepressants (TCA), in women than in men. The SSRIs have shown to be effective in treating these disorders, with the possibility of intermittent luteal phase treatment of PMDD. Non-antidepressant (AD) approaches have generally been found to be less effective. In the first trimester of pregnancy, there is data available supporting the safe use of SSRIs, particularly those first released, i.e. fluoxetine and sertraline. Finally, all SSRIs, with the exception of sertraline, can increase the risk of hyperprolactinaemia. This can lead to a variety of complications including amenorrhea and osteoporosis. This effect of sertraline, due to its unique profile in blocking re-uptake of dopamine, extends itself into additional relative benefits for sleep and memory. The issues associated for women with bipolar disorder are dealt with in terms of both increased risk of relapse during pregnancy and postpartum periods, as well as the relative risk of use of lithium and mood stabilizers in pregnancy and lactation.

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