Risk-benefit decision making for treatment of depression during pregnancy

K. L. Wisner*, D. A. Zarin, E. S. Holmboe, P. S. Appelbaum, A. J. Gelenberg, H. L. Leonard, E. Frank

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

233 Scopus citations


Objective: The Committee on Research on Psychiatric Treatments of the American Psychiatric Association identified treatment of major depression during pregnancy as a priority area for improvement in clinical management. The goal of this article was to assist physicians in optimizing treatment plans for childbearing women. Method: The authors' work group developed a decision-making model designed to structure the information delivered to pregnant women in the context of the risk-benefit discussion. Perspectives of forensic and decision-making experts were incorporated. Results: The model directs the psychiatrist to structure the problem through diagnostic formulation and identification of treatment options for depression. Reproductive toxicity in five domains (intrauterine fetal death, physical malformations, growth impairment, behavioral teratogenicity, and neonatal toxicity) is reviewed for the potential somatic treatments. The illness (depression) also is characterized by symptoms of somatic dysregulation that compromise health during pregnancy. The patient actively participates and provides her evaluation of the acceptability of the various treatments and outcomes. Her capacity to participate in this process provides evidence of competence to consent. Included in the decision-making process are the patient's significant others and obstetrical physician. The process is ongoing, with the need for incorporation of additional data as the pregnancy and treatment response progress. Conclusions: The conceptual model provides structure to a process that is frequently stressful for both patients and psychiatrists. By applying the model, clinicians will ensure that critical aspects of the risk-benefit discussion are included in their care of pregnant women.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1933-1940
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Psychiatry
Issue number12
StatePublished - 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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