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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Jen Ohren

I have had depression issues for quite some time. As a teen I cut myself, would sleep a lot, and had no motivation to do anything. I received therapy and was put on Wellbutrin for a while. It helped, I got off the meds after about 6 months and all was well.

I had my daughter a few years later, a surprise, at 19. I struggled very badly with PPD. I was breastfeeding and did not want to take any meds. I never had the type of PPD where I wanted to hurt my child or anything but I literally would not get dressed or leave the house. I stayed in my bra and underwear and would hold my daughter 24/7 (she was colicky, she would only not cry when I held her). It wasn't until after I stopped breastfeeding her that I got on some meds and again, they helped a lot. I weened off around 6 months to a year. I was on Effexor this time and the withdrawals were awful. 

Jen Ohren


So fast forward to 4 years later and I have another little surprise, my son (apparently BC hates me). My PPD didn't seem all that bad. I did cry a lot but it wasn't as bad as the first time. I let it go. After about a year and a half in (I was still BFing and according to my doctor if you are still BFing then you could still or are still experiencing PPD) and I was having some anxiety, nothing crazy. Then one day, it hit me, a panic attack. I had never had one before. I was driving with both my kids and my husband and I had to pull over. I could not breathe, my hands, arms, face, mouth, legs all went numb. My arms restricted to my chest and I could not move them. I seriously thought I was having a stroke. Turned out, it was a panic attack. The ER (I went by ambulance) gave me Ativan. I didn't take it because I didn't want to be on meds again and I was still BFing. 

Three days later it happened again, what I assume is a more "normal" panic attack. If you have ever had one you would know that you will do anything to make it stop. ANYTHING! So I took one of the pills and fell asleep.

Jen Ohren


I went to my doctor, they sent me to therapy and ran a ton of medical tests. No cause was found so it was assumed it was all in my head (YAY ME!). They put me on Celexa and Ativan (as needed).

Some people seriously need meds is the point of this long story. I agree that it has nothing to do with being a Mom or "mommy's little helper". Granted, some Moms have crazy PPD or PPD side effects, others just have a predisposition or chemical imbalance.

I wish mental health wasn't such a stigma in this country. I have always said suicide is a selfish thing to do and I would NEVER do it but if I was living with panic attacks every day... it is hard to say what I would do. 

kelti... kelticmom

Jen, I completely agree with you. My panic/anxiety attacks were awful. I would shiver like I was freezing cold, my teeth would chatter and my tongue would feel like it was swollen and I would stutter. My chest would constrict like an elephant was sitting on it. Other times, I would feel extremely hot, I would itch uncontrollably and had this unexplainable rage I could feel inside me, like it was going to burst out of my chest. I felt like if I could just scream and scream I would feel better. I snapped at everyone. I wouldn't wish feeling like that on anyone.

Coles... Coles_mom

I literally went to my doctor just today and shared that I have been struggling with anxiety and she prescribed Xanax. I hadn't ever taken it before and I'm nervous- I don't like feeling drowsy with a new baby (along with 2 other kids).

nonmember avatar Dee

@colesmom - before you do anything, do research. Don't take my or your doctor's word. Find out every side effect, addiction potential, what class drug it is, etc.. Seriously, I can't say what to do , but if nothing else let's all know what we put in our bodies and know the possible cost. Hell, half the time antibiotics give me yeast infections. So I have to truly need 1, not just have a cold/sniffle/etc.

Jalestra Jalestra

I don't know. I joke a lot about "wine every day" or something. Joke. I DO encourage A glass of wine or hell, on a really rough day, a few glasses of wine to help destress and still keep you in the driver's seat sometimes. However, never to the point of impairment unless daddy's home and sober himself (like night out with the girls, not at home just getting bombed upstairs). I know there are moms who need legitimate HELP. PPD, depression...but a mom who just is uptight? Who is feeling normal emotions? No, I"m sorry, but I have a problem with that. We should deal with life, not medicate ourselves to happiness. 

I've seen both. Some moms have a legitimate issue, but some others just do not like functioning in the real world and see meds as a way to get through the day because they aren't happy with their lives or they didn't know being a mom was so much work or blah blah blah. One is ok, the other is really no different than a heroin addict.

Amelia Marie Baudoin Montoya

Sound like some unfit mothers reason to be a crackhead if you can't deal then keep you legs close hoe!

Jaime Swift Sundin

hmmm since meds are just made for money maybe i should just stop taking my seizure meds since that shits is just all in my head any way right???  Come on, folks some people including myself need the meds to be good parents good spouses and good people.  If other options work for you great more power too you, but to tell someone else that they shouldnt take medication is just wrong.  You dont know what there going through and you dont know what they have or havent tried.  For me there are no breaks my husband is a truck driver and for 6 days a week he isnt home.  So its just me and my kids.  So i will do whatever it takes to give my kids the best me that i can.  And if that means taking an anti depressent then so be it.

Ariel Amber Lofton Kincaid

we all jsut need to smoke a joint in the morning and then everything will all be okay for the day.

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