When you’re welcoming a baby very soon, it will surely be emotional for you and the rest of the family. However, it will be difficult if you have just been diagnosed with a mental illness, such as depression. Your doctor would recommend you to be on antidepressant therapy while you’re pregnant, or perhaps after you give birth, possibly for postnatal depression. On the other hand, if you’ve already been taking antidepressants and plan to be pregnant anytime soon, you must visit your doctor and discuss this matter. He is the best person who can provide you with the necessary information about issues such as these, or he will possibly refer you to a specialist.
Below is a list of questions that you might have about your current or future pregnancy plans and whether or not it is necessary to take prescription medications for your mental and emotional well-being.
Are There Benefits Of Taking Antidepressants While I’m Pregnant?
During pregnancy, you are mainly responsible for taking extra care of yourself and the baby inside your womb. If you think that not taking the prescribed medications, including antidepressants, would disrupt the already ‘normal’ status of your mental health and leads you to more harm than good, then your most sensible move for both you and your baby is, of course, to continue taking these medications.
But you have to make sure that you weigh the risks it has on your baby against the possible dangers of stopping the medication, then you finally decide on what’s best from your experience and your doctor’s recommendation. You will feel confused about this, and it would be wise for you to look for more support such as family and friends during this time.
Question From A Mom
I was diagnosed with depression when I found out I was pregnant, and I was scared that I would not be capable of taking care of my baby with my mental illness. So I decided to take an antidepressant. Up until now, I feel that I am better, and I can better manage my mood and behavior because of it. But what are the risks of what I’m doing?
The possible risks include but are not limited to:
- Higher likelihood of premature births and miscarriage.
- Potential congenital disabilities. Some studies have proven that taking SSRIs in the early stages of pregnancy increases the risk of the baby to have spina bifida, heart abnormalities, and cleft lip or palate.
- Withdrawal symptoms are seen in the infant, especially when the mother has been taking antidepressants during the late stages of her pregnancy. Symptoms like irritability, restlessness, fever, poor muscle tone, high blood pressure in the lungs, and difficulty breathing.
- Other uncommon risks, like taking a new kind of drug.
The risks mentioned above are much higher during the first trimester and the later portion of the third trimester when the baby is more sensitive and susceptible.
What If Taking Medication Is Of Paramount Importance?
If you think you need to take your antidepressants, you are not allowed to take it directly without first consulting your primary physician. He will advise you on which drugs have fewer side effects than others.
“For many women with severe major depression, treatment with an antidepressant is not optional, just like treatment with insulin is not optional for a woman with (type 1) diabetes,” says Kimberly Yonkers, MD. “To give these women the message that treatment is optional and that it doesn’t work anyway does us all a disservice.”
What About Taking Antidepressant While Breastfeeding?
If you’re a mom or a soon-to-be mom, you know that breast milk is best for your baby, but it’s going to be a tough decision for you if you’ve been taking antidepressants and you’re not planning to stop. “It’s important to talk to your doctor before stopping or switching any medication,” says Lucy Puryear, MD. Keep these in mind:
- Breastfeeding has specific benefits for your baby, including boosting your immune system, providing more nutrients than cow’s milk, and improving parent-baby relationships. “There are clear benefits to breastfeeding,” says Zachary Stowe, MD. “If it’s important to the woman, it should be their decision.”
- Breastfeeding carries the potential danger that the drug might be consumed by the baby through the mother’s milk and may produce side effects.
Are There Healthier Substitutes To Medication?
There are healthier and safer alternatives to antidepressant therapy, but you should first inform your doctor if you would like to try these substitutes to reduce depressive symptoms.
If you don’t want to take the risk of medicating while you’re pregnant, you can access some alternative therapies with the help of your doctor. One common alternative is meditation, a practice that involves mindfulness and concentration. You are guided through a 15 to 30-minute breathing exercise that will produce relaxation and stress relief. Other therapies include yoga, light massage, and acupuncture.
Other Support Networks
Deciding what’s right for you and your baby can be hard, which is why you will need all the support you can get. Your family and friends are among the first people that you run to for mental, emotional, and even financial help. You are most comfortable with them so you can talk about how you feel and express your worries and anxieties.
Online groups like websites for first-time moms or mothers who are willing to share their experiences are great tools for you to gather more knowledge about pregnancy and to manage mental health conditions.
As a mother, you are your baby’s comfort and ally, the only one that can protect it from harmful forces in the outside world. It is only right that you make your baby your priority in anything, even when you’re dealing with your mental health.