I started seeing a psychiatrist at the beginning of 2011. It wasn’t the first time, but it was one of the times I needed it most. I was living in a new place that I didn’t know well and I had no support system. I had parted ways with my job and was itching to occupy myself. I suspected my son was autistic (which was confirmed a few weeks after I started therapy). With all that time on my hands and plenty of misery I was having trouble doing basic tasks. I was anhedonic (unable to take pleasure in anything). And it needed to stop.
Within a few months I was on a comfortable dose of an antidepressant, I’d started a new job and my son was receiving daily therapy. Things were looking up. I was feeling better. Instead of looking up from underneath life, I was able to feel like I was at least level.
Then I found out I was pregnant.
One of the first questions I had was what to do about my meds. I wasn’t on one of the “approved” antidepressants for pregnancy. They’d had side effects I wasn’t comfortable with, including deeper depression. But everyone I knew who’d been in this situation said they’d gone off meds when they got pregnant or when they were trying to conceive.
I took the issue up with my psychiatrist. She’d done her reading and she told me exactly what the research was on my drug. We talked about the pros and cons. We talked about statistics. And then we talked about me. What were the potential dangers of me going off my medication? How would stress affect me in my pregnancy? Would I cause more harm than good?
In the end, I decided to stay on my meds. I was on a low dose. I was stable, but I was just barely stable. It wasn’t a good time to stop. The baby needed me. So did the family I already had. And this seemed like my best shot.
So I stayed on my meds. I told my obstetrician. I kept going to therapy. And then, thankfully, I had a beautiful baby daughter.
But that wasn’t the end of the story. Then came breastfeeding. Some of my antidepressant would probably be transferred to the baby through my milk. I had another conversation with my doctor. And we decided to stay the course.
It’s been over a year now that I’ve been down this road and not once have I heard another mother say she’s doing or has done the same thing. I don’t know if I’m the only one or if they’re just afraid to say so. But here it is: I took antidepressants while pregnant and breastfeeding. And I think it was the right decision for me.
I had only a bit of doubt a few weeks ago when I left my daughter with family while I was out of town for a few days. My pump broke and I didn’t get a chance to set aside as much breast milk as I wanted so they had to supplement with formula. When I called to see how she was, I was told she was happier than ever before, sleeping more than every before, and generally being a delight.
I wondered: was my baby’s tendency to be loud and fussy and a bad sleeper because of my antidepressants? Was I doing this to her? I knew it could be anything: maybe drinking milk or eating spicy foods or too much broccoli. But I thought of my meds first.
I’ve had her back for a couple weeks now and, wouldn’t you know it, she is happier than ever, sleeping more and generally being a delight. It was just a coincidence, one of those baby breakthroughs.
So there it is. I’m on my meds. My daughter is happy. I feel in control of my life. And I’m not ashamed to say so.
Have any of you been in Jessica’s situation? What was your decision on meds vs. no meds? How are you and your baby doing? We’d love to hear from all voices out there…