Mental disorders like depression and anxiety are common, and many people benefit greatly from taking medicines to treat these disorders; this includes women of childbearing age. However, some studies have shown that exposure to antidepressants and other similar drugs in utero may be linked to congenital malformations and neurodevelopmental problems in infants and children. This means that pregnancy can be a time of great concern for women who need medication to treat illnesses: it is difficult to weigh the potential risks to the baby against the benefits of continuing treatment.
The SafeTwoTreat project will advance our knowledge about treatment of mental disorders during pregnancy by introducing a new dimension: the role of pharmacogenetics. Medications are metabolized in the liver by enzymes, and then the drugs are eventually flushed from the body. How quickly this happens is partly determined by genetics. People who are fast metabolizers will have the main drug in their bloodstream for less time than slow metabolizers, and this may be linked to the dose of medication received by the developing fetus. By understanding the role of pharmacogenetics, the SafeTwoTreat study aims to apply personalized medicine approaches to the study of medication safety in pregnant women with mental health problems.