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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Depression during pregnancy: views on antidepressant use and information sources of general practitioners and pharmacists

Tessa Ververs1, Liset van Dijk2, Somaye Yousofi3, Fred Schobben13 and Gerard HA Visser4*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Clinical Pharmacy, University Medical Center Utrecht, Utrecht University, the Netherlands

2 NIVEL – Netherlands Institute for Health Services Research, Utrecht, the Netherlands

3 Department of Pharmacoepidemiology and Pharmacotherapy, Utrecht Institute for Pharmaceutical Sciences (UIPS), Utrecht University, Utrecht, the Netherlands

4 Department of Perinatology and Gynaecology, University Medical Center Utrecht, PO Box 85500, 3508 GA Utrecht, the Netherlands

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BMC Health Services Research 2009, 9:119  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-9-119

Published: 17 July 2009

Abstract

Background

The use of antidepressants during pregnancy has increased in recent years. In the Netherlands, almost 2% of all pregnant women are exposed to antidepressants. Although guidelines have been developed on considerations that should be taken into account, prescribing antidepressants during pregnancy is still a subject of debate. Physicians and pharmacists may have opposing views on using medication during pregnancy and may give contradictory advice on whether or not to take medication for depression and anxiety disorders during pregnancy. In this study, we investigated information sources used by general practitioners (GPs) and pharmacists and their common practices.

Methods

A questionnaire on the use of information sources and the general approach when managing depression during pregnancy was sent out to 1400 health care professionals to assess information sources on drug safety during pregnancy and also the factors that influence decision-making. The questionnaires consisted predominantly of closed multiple-choice questions.

Results

A total of 130 GPs (19%) and 144 pharmacists (21%) responded. The most popular source of information on the safety of drug use during pregnancy is the Dutch National Health Insurance System Formulary, while a minority of respondents contacts the Dutch national Teratology Information Service (TIS). The majority of GPs contact the pharmacy with questions concerning drug use during pregnancy. There is no clear line with regard to treatment or consensus between GPs on the best therapeutic strategy, nor do practitioners agree upon the drug of first choice. GPs have different views on stopping or continuing antidepressants during pregnancy or applying alternative treatment options. The debate appears to be ongoing as to whether or not specialised care for mother and child is indicated in cases of gestational antidepressant use.

Conclusion

Primary health care workers are not univocal concerning therapy for pregnant women with depression. Although more research is needed to account for all safety issues, local or national policies are indispensable in order to avoid undesirable practices, such as giving contradictory advice. GPs and pharmacists should address the subject during their regular pharmacotherapeutic consensus meetings, preferably in collaboration with the TIS or other professionals in the field.