MONTREAL -- Researchers in Laval have modelled, for the first time, the interaction between commonly used antidepressants and estrogen.

Their work, recently published in The Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, has implications for the treatment of depression among pregnant women, the researchers said.

Around one in 10 pregnant women suffer from depression, the Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique (INRS) wrote in a press release on Wednesday, and the effects of antidepressants on fetal health are, as of yet, unclear.

Antidepressants have side effects and prescribing them to pregnant women is often a trade-off between the risk to the fetus and the benefit provided to the mother, according to INRS researcher and professor Cathy Vaillancourt, who was the lead researcher on the estrogen study.

She and her team sought to better understand the effects of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors--a common class of antidepressants known as SSRIs--on hormone levels that could affect the fetus. Since they couldn't test on pregnant women, the researchers used placental cells.

SSRIs interact directly with estrogen, they found.

Their findings are a step towards understanding the effects of antidepressants on fetal health and could lead to further research, Vaillancourt said.

"I think we could play with this to have a better way to treat pregnant women [for depression]," she said.