Women's decision making about antidepressant use during pregnancy: A narrative review

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Depression is common, particularly among women of childbearing age, and can have far-reaching negative consequences if untreated. Efficacious treatments are available, but little is known about how women make depression treatment decisions during pregnancy. The purpose of this narrative review is to interpretively synthesize literature on women's decision making (DM) regarding antidepressant use during pregnancy.


The databases PubMed, CINAHL, and PsycINFO were searched between May 2015 and August 2017 for peer-reviewed, English-language papers using terms such as “depression,” “pregnancy,” and “DM.” The literature matrix abstraction method was used to systematically abstract data from full articles that met criteria for inclusion.


Of the articles abstracted (N = 10), half did not cite a DM theory on which the work was based. Key aspects of DM for this population were need for information and decision support, desire for active participation in DM, reflection on beliefs and values, evaluation of treatment option sequelae, and societal expectations. Treatment DM for depression during pregnancy is particularly impacted by the stigma associated with depression and societal expectations of pregnant women related to medication use during pregnancy. These findings, however, were based on studies of predominantly Caucasian and well-educated women.


Women require a nonjudgmental environment, in which shared DM feels safe, to foster positive DM experiences and outcomes. Future research is needed to define how to best support women to make depression treatment decisions in pregnancy, with particular attention to DM in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy.

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