Date of Graduation


Document Type

Thesis (MS)

Program Affiliation

Genetic Counseling

Degree Name

Masters of Science (MS)

Advisor/Committee Chair

Kate Wilson, MS, CGC

Committee Member

Claire Singletary, MS, CGC

Committee Member

Syed Hashmi, MD, PhD, MPH

Committee Member

Manju Monga, MD

Committee Member

Jerrie Refuerzo, MD

Committee Member

Anthony Kerrigan, PhD


Mood disorders are the most common form of mental illness and one of the leading causes of morbidity worldwide. Major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder have a lifetime prevalence of 16.2% and 4.4%, respectively. Women comprise a substantial proportion of this population, and an estimated 500,000 pregnancies each year involve women with a psychiatric condition. Management with psychotropic medications is considered standard of care for most patients with mood disorders. However, many of these medications are known human teratogens. Because pregnant women with mood disorders face a high risk of relapse if unmanaged, the obstetrician faces a unique challenge in providing the best care to both mother and baby.

It has been suggested that many obstetricians overestimate the teratogenic risks associated with psychotropic medications, while concurrently underestimating the risks associated with unmanaged mood disorders. This may be due a knowledge gap regarding the most current teratogen information, and lack of official management guidelines. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to determine the current knowledge base of obstetricians regarding the teratogenic effects of common psychotropic medications, as wells as to capture current management practices for pregnant women with mood disorders.

A total of 117 Texas obstetricians responded to a survey regarding teratogen knowledge and management practice. It was common for respondents to encounter women who disclose both having a mood disorder and taking a psychotropic medication during pregnancy. Many respondents did not utilize up-to-date drug counseling resources, and were unaware of or over-estimated the teratogenic risks of common medications used to treat mood disorders. Finally, many respondents reported wanting to refer pregnant patients with mood disorders to psychiatrists for co-management, but are reportedly restricted in doing so due to accessibility or insurance issues.

This study demonstrates that there is a knowledge gap among obstetricians regarding the teratogenicity of common psychotropic medications utilized to manage a patient population they frequently encounter. Further, obstetricians have vastly different risk perceptions of these medications, resulting in various management approaches and recommendations. Future research should focus on establishing standard practice guidelines, as well as better accessibility to psychiatric services for pregnant women.


mood disorders, teratogen counseling, risk perception, risk communication, genetic counseling, managing pregnant women with mood disorders