Flickr: Photo by Pink Sherbet Photography
My depression took a major nosedive when I was pregnant.
To be clear, it wasn't the baby's fault. Finding those two pink lines was the very top of our roller coaster ride. After six months of trying, we'd finally made it to the pinnacle, and my husband and I were over the moon. I was anything BUT depressed.
And then I went off my antidepressant medication.
It wasn't a conscious decision. My doctors were fairly blase about the risks. Their answer -- perhaps couched in today's malpractice hysteria -- was "do what you feel you have to do."
Fast forward a few weeks to the start of morning, noon and night sickness. I couldn't keep anything down, and swallowing the horse pills that were my pre-natal vitamins made me gag. I put off swallowing anything that wasn't absolutely necessary, including my medication. I twice landed in the emergency room from severe dehydration, and my doctors tried drug after drug to just ... make ... it ... stop.
By the time they got me on a cocktail usually given to cancer patients to quell the nausea of chemotherapy, I realized it had been weeks since I'd taken my medicine. Having read that antidepressants can be bad for baby, I was relieved that the decision had been made for me. What kind of mother would I be if I'd been jazzed about possible side effects for my kid, if I was willing to ignore the risks of a low birth weight baby?
But my body wasn't on the same page. Physically exhausted, still limited in what I could eat without rushing to the toilet (in total it would be seven to eight months of throwing up), with back pain that would take extensive post-partum physical therapy to cure and pregnancy-induce carpal tunnel making it difficult to hold a pad of paper, I was a physical mess. And my husband will attest I was one cranky, witchy miserable human being.
I was the type of person you might say needs a stiff drink and a swift kick in the ass. Only I was pregnant, so no alcohol. And a foot in my butt wasn't going to do a darn thing for the chemicals in my brain.
Throw in a car accident in the second trimester that left me terrified of driving, and I was a hot mess. I couldn't drive to my OB/GYN appointments without pulling over to the side of the road to have a panic attack. I couldn't sleep at night without worrying that my child, the child I wanted so very badly, was the biggest mistake I'd ever made.
So what pulled me out of it all? I stopped reading the studies online and went for it. I asked my doctor to put me back on antidepressants more than a month before my due date. She was hesitant. I was firm.
If I didn't get this under control now, what would the post-partum period be like? I wasn't about to spend the first few weeks with my baby refusing to touch her and crying in my bathtub. I had to be the adult here, be the mother. I had to push, but the doctor gave in. The fears of low birth weight were unfounded -- my daughter came out at nearly 7 pounds, with an APGAR of 9/10. She was fine. I was even better; I could look her in the eyes, coo in her face, kiss her piggy toes.
I was alive, and I was engaged in this new life. A friend struggling with her depression while she carries twins told me a few weeks ago that the doctors are refusing to put her back on her medication even though she's feeling "psychotic" (her words). She's been debating whether it's worth it to push the issue.
My advice was simple: Honey, take the meds. There is no healthy baby without a healthy mom.
This is just one mom's opinion and experience. As with anything health related during pregnancy, always ask your doctor or midwife what's right for you.