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J Perinatol. 2015 Apr;35(4):246-51. doi: 10.1038/jp.2014.197. Epub 2014 Nov 20.

Disparities in antidepressant use in pregnancy.

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1] Department of Research and Evaluation, Kaiser Permanente, Pasadena, CA, USA [2] Department of Neonatology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, MA, USA.
1] Department of Neonatology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, MA, USA [2] Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA, USA.
Department of Neonatology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, MA, USA.



The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Psychiatric Association both recommend pharmacotherapy for perinatal depression when the benefits outweigh the risks. While minority adults are less likely to use antidepressant medications compared with non-Hispanic Whites, whether this pattern occurs among pregnant women is unclear. We sought to determine the frequency of antidepressant medication use reported during ambulatory care visits for pregnant women and whether these rates varied by race.


We combined the 2006-2010 National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey and the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey to obtain nationally representative estimates of outpatient preventive care visits for pregnant women. We then obtained estimates of the prevalence of reported depression and antidepressant use during outpatient visits for pregnant women. To determine whether these estimates varied by race, we used multivariable logistic regression analyses accounting for survey design using SAS 9.2 (PROC SURVEYLOGISTIC) to estimate odds ratios of reported antidepressant use after adjustment for age, insurance status and region of the country.


Antidepressant use was reported during 2.2% of all outpatient visits for pregnant women. Providers indicated a depression diagnosis in 4.5% of visits. Among visits for depressed pregnant women, providers reported antidepressant use 25.4% of the time for all visits. Antidepressant use during pregnancy varied significantly by race/ethnicity. Among visits for non-Hispanic White women, 3.1% included a code for antidepressant use vs just 1.0% for non-White women (P<0.0001). After adjustment for age, insurance status and region of the country, this association persisted with non-Hispanic White (vs non-White) pregnant women having higher odds of antidepressant use (adjusted OR 3.3, 95% confidence intervals 2.1, 5.3).


Non-Hispanic White women were more likely than non-White women to be using antidepressants during pregnancy. Whether differences in antidepressant use by race/ethnicity indicates over-treatment of non-Hispanic White women or under-treatment of minorities remains unclear. This disparity warrants investigation with the goal of optimizing maternal mental health while minimizing potential adverse sequelae of antidepressants on developing fetuses.

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