5 Ways Medication Can Make You a Better Mom

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clouds windowThis week's big controversy in parenting: Moms on Meds! As in, Why are so many moms on psychiatric medications and how can we make them feel guilty and ashamed? It's not a new controversy, not by a longshot: "Mother's Little Helper" by The Rolling Stones came out in 1966, and the Valium-inspired lyrics are perfectly relevant 40 years later:

Kids are different today, I hear ev'ry mother say
Mother needs something today to calm her down

And though she's not really ill, there's a little yellow pill
She goes running for the shelter of a mother's little helper
And it helps her on her way, gets her through her busy day

Times haven't changed that much, except now we have more choices -- it was a recent article about how Xanax helps one woman to "be a better mom" that re-ignited the "moms on meds" debate.

A debate which is, in theory, born out of some concern that we're suddenly, needlessly over-medicating moms for a range of unpleasant but normal maternal emotions: Sadness, anxiety, pessimism, insomnia, irritability, fatigue. A debate stemming from the belief that moms should be able to "pull themselves out of it." From the implication that mothers who "fall back" on psychiatric meds are either lazy or addicted or unstable -- unfit.

More from The Stir: Mothers on Meds Don't Need Your Judgment

Not only is this a dangerous, irresponsible argument for any medical professional to make, in my personal opinion, it's completely untrue. I know from experience that post-partum depression is real. So is post-post-partum depression tinged with anxiety and the occasional panic attack. So are maternally-induced insomnia and melancholy and a whole host of other motherhood-related emotional disorders that go beyond "unpleasant but normal" into "I can't function like this" territory. And I also know from experience that medication can help. A lot. So rather than question the validity or judge the morality of moms on meds, let's just look at a few ways psychiatric medications truly can help some of us to be better moms.

Meds can:

1. Help make the oftentimes terrifying world seem like a less terrifying place to raise children.

2. Lessen out-of-control mommy guilt (which, left unchecked, can lead to/aggravate depression).

3. Make it easier to manage the stress of juggling more work/family/life responsibilities than human beings are meant to juggle at one time.

4. Help regulate sleep patterns/avoid crippling fatigue.

5. Help keep the everyday emotional ups-and-downs of your children in perspective.

Obviously I'm not saying that every mom should be on meds or even that every mom currently on meds should be on meds, but I am saying some of us do need to be on meds, and that today's medications are a far better option than the methods of self-medication mothers (and others) were forced to resort to in the past. The stigma needs to go.

Do you think meds can help some of us to be better moms? How?


Image via the_stir/Flickr

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kelti... kelticmom

I have a serious anxiety problem. It got so bad after I had my son, I would have panic attacks at work (which is not good, as I am an ER nurse), while driving, etc. I would stay awake all night, itching all over, uncontrollabley shivering, I would feel like I needed to scream at someone or throw things. It is a chemical imbalance, not anything any "therapy" could have helped. Since being on my Rx, I am so much better and happier. Don't make blanket assumptions about people who need medication or the medication itself based off what you have read on the internet.

quinn007 quinn007

People assume they understand what it's like to be depressed because it's a term that is throw around so often.  Depression isn't cured by yoga or a good nights sleep.  It's not something you just get over.  To say so is ridiculously irresponsible and part of why there is still such a stigma attached to those that take medication or seek treatment.  It took me 3 years of medication and therapy to finally feel the light from PPD.  Effexor is what gave my daughter a mother to come home too.  Unless you have experienced actual real depression, I don't think you should presume to know what is the right treatment for anyone.   

nonmember avatar Dee

I assume it because I have a family full of depressives, including a mother who's history reads a lot like Mindy McCready, though my mothers suicide attempts never ended in death. So that was my childhood, by the time I was a teen I just wanted to die too, I've been there, and I say what I do because I care, not because I judge. Frankly, I blame big Pharma & doctors-not so much well meaning folks who go to their Dr. For help. But that doesn't mean the pills are good for you. And as blasé as it may sound, yoga, prayer, exercise, DO help a person learn to cope, especially if you have anxiety! Only someone who's never tried it would say something like that. No, it won't "fix" you over night, but you will lower stress, anxiety, feel better and all that helps a lot. A pill doesn't "fix" you either, it just covers over what's really going on. I speak from much painful, hard earned, knowledge, including college studies on Rx drugs because I wanted to be informed and have lived through a parents depression and near death due to Rx drugs. But I know it's easier to think you're unique and the rest of us don't know what we're talking about.

nonmember avatar Dee

To be fair, a lot of the issue also is that no med only effects one thing. There are often bad side effects, so #1 makes you sleepy so you need #2 to be awake in the a.m. Then #3 to counteract #2 at night to sleep and then #4 to counteract the incontinence #3 gave you and before you know it your a drug addict with so many pills you can't keep track. Never forget this is a multibillion business, sad to say, but their job is to sell you pills, not help you so you don't need them. As someone else said, also always check your meds on your own. I've seen recovered addicts get addictive meds they shouldn't, I've been double prescribed by accident and only realized it when I checked and saw the 2 meds did the same thing but together would be an overdose(I was told to take both and had to get tough with a nurse who was sure the Dr. Wouldn't do that, but he did, by accident). We all have to take responsibility for what we put in our bodies and the affects. Always do your own research. I've already been told I needed surgery, then healed the area with essential oils, no surgery. because I researched and kept an open mind. Actually I could tell way more stories like that. I always research healing naturally these days, even for my dog, whose ear infection I recently cleared up w/out antibiotics, which can cause dogs lots of harm, but is the standard treatment.

kelti... kelticmom

Dee, I am going to go out on a limb here and suggest you know really nothing about how CLINICAL DEPRESSION and MENTAL ILLNESS really work. For you to suggest that yoga, prayer and exercise will help these w/o Rx drugs is akin to me telling someone with cancer that some fresh air and organic food will cure them. It's not the truth. There are chemical imbalances that cause these things. Now, environmental and situational depression/anxiety (such as you went through w the death of a loved one), is different. Those can be resolved with counseling and yoga, etc. But chronic, clinical depression, anxiet and illness cannot. And no, I don't like to think I'm "unique". You know what we did with people that had anxiety like mine and clinical depression, etc before we had therapeutic drugs? We locked them in asylums and gave them lobotomies.

kelti... kelticmom

And don't even get me started on the "natural healing" b.s. For minor things, sure, go for it. But we had an attending who's 42 year old wife was diagnosed with skin cancer two years ago. Even though her husband is a physician, she was adamant about the "natural healing/homeopathic" treatments. He BEGGED her to do conventional care. She refused and flew to California for the treatments she wanted. No chemo, no radiation, just herbs, organic food, etc. Her homeopathic "doctor" declared her "healed" and she came home. Six months later,she collapsed in agony. They opened her up for exploratory surgery, the cancer was EVERYWHERE. She never woke up. She died two days later. Leaving three young daughters and a grieving husband.

nonmember avatar Dee

I'll give you a quick guide to just one natural curative. Look up a tea called Essiac. There are lots of fakes but the real was made by a Ms. Caisse, a nurse. It's been known to cure cancers and many ailments. The main ingredients are

today used in chemotherapy treatments. I've seen it cure early stage cancers via the tea which doesn't have side effects. Now I can't speak to any one experience but nature has many cures for many ills. I wouldnt ever tell someone not to get chemo, especially in late stages, I'm saying be informed, open minded, and leave Big Pharma for the absolute last resort. Sorry about your friend, but it may be that nothing could've saved her. I would try everything, Western/Eastern, organic, but this article particularly talks about regular crap people shouldn't pop meds for.

Cel7777 Cel7777

This issue is somewhat personal to me, as  I experienced a relatively sharp mental decline after the birth of my son. Let me first say that I'm somewhat of a "crunchy" person by nature..I believe that things like eating a proper diet, exercise, devoting time to activites that you enjoy, etc., should *always* be the first resort when dealing with depression or sadness of some form. And that's what I did..for months and months I fought. I restructed my whole diet, I ate (and still do eat) about as healthy as a person can. Really. I exercised. I researched. I reached out. I even bought one of those UV light boxes that deliver imitation sunlight during the dreary winter months. And yet, I still felt really....bad. I felt like the walls were closing in on me. I never wanted to die, but I didn't want to get up in the morning. Yet the stigma of medication and my believing that I wasn't depressed "enough" to rationalize taking it kept me from getting help.


Cel7777 Cel7777



One day it occured to me that my ego and pride was not more important than my kids, who were getting a lesser version of their Mom because I felt like shit. I went to the Dr and was prescribed Wellbutrin. I wish I could sayit was all rainbows and sunshine after that. Although the medication has helped, it's still a daily struggle, and I've continued my healthy habits. My husband recently accepted a new job, and in the interim we won't have health insurance, so I'm going to see what life is like without it once my prescription runs out. Hopefully I will feel OK.

Was/am I depressed enough to warrant medication? Is there something else more "natural" I could have done? I don't know the answer to either of these questions, but I feel I made the right choice under the circumstances.

Micha... Michaeleonfire

It's terribly sad that you have people saying medication is the ONLY way to get better. Every person and situation is different. Assuming ONLY meds will fix anything is idiotic. Relying on any one thing to fix your issues is, as well. It's a constant process.

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