Posted by Hilary Parker on May 18, 2011
There’s so much gloom and doom out there regarding antidepressants and pregnancy. We can’t just sweep them under the rug of Evil Side Effects and ignore the good — sometimes life-saving good — that these drugs do for many of us. But we must be careful to remember that everyone’s situation is unique. Suffering from depression is common — one in four women will be diagnosed as depressed during their lifetimes.
According to the American Pregnancy Association, depression that is left untreated during pregnancy can lead to poor nutrition, drinking, smoking… even suicidal behavior. These can result in premature birth, low birth weight and developmental problems for the baby.
Also, babies born to depressed women may be less active, show less attention in general and be more easily irritated and agitated than babies born to non-depressed moms.
It makes total sense that our overall mental well-being affects more than just us. But pregnant women often hone in on the health of their unborn child, happily making sacrifices to help promote the child’s good health. But if such a change includes hopping off their antidepressant, they can find themselves in a bad place at work, with the fathers of their children and/or with their group of friends and family members on which they will need to rely once the child is born.
A woman in a bad place like this may even have trouble enjoying and bonding with her newborn child (not to mention having difficulties caring for any children she already has). Women with severe depression shouldn’t be made to feel as though they must “suck it up” for the health of their baby if, in fact, doing so might put the child in just as much danger.
Still think taking antidepressants while pregnant is the absolute worst thing in the world for an unborn child? Clearly, this is not the case in all situations. As with any medical decision while pregnant, you should always discuss your medications with your doctor. If a nutritious diet, routine exercise and talk therapy aren’t enough, then not only may it be OK to use antidepressants, it may be the right thing to do for your baby. Because if mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.