Postpartum depression has been in the news lately because Hayden Panettiere and Drew Barrymore have spoken about their experiences. But what about those of us who have dealt with depression for much longer. Since before we were called Mommy? When we do get the help we need dispelling the stigma that we are harming our babies if we choose to continue during pregnancy?
I have been dealing with depression for as long as I can remember. I would say that my parents' divorce precipitated some of it, but for the most part it's my brain chemistry. Two years of graduate school were spent unmedicated and it was the worse decision I have ever made. Going to classes and conducting laboratory experiments became even more tiresome. I was listless, crying all of the time. Aside from going to school, most of my time was spent at home on the couch. After having professors finally bring it up to me that I was not actively participating, I finally sought the help I so desperately needed.
Never did it occur to me that I would be told I should stop taking my medication while I was pregnant and eventually breastfeeding.
Antidepressants fall into a category of drugs that can cross the placenta and be absorbed by our growing babies. There is a concern (and rightly so) about their effects because not enough research has done on account of, duh, women aren't exactly lining up to test them out. However, women who do choose to take them have been documented and that data is used for recommendations. In light of this, they are classified as not safe for use during pregnancy.
There are a multitude of outlets that advise stopping their usage “if your symptoms are mild enough.” Where is this line drawn? Obviously our symptoms are disruptive enough to seek help. We are being demonized for taking care of our mental health as we would any other disease. Are you going to tell a woman with epileptic seizures to stop taking her medication(s) while she is pregnant because of the risks of birth defects?
I don't want to take away from the women who have gone through postpartum depression and have made it out the other side. What I do hope is that someday our society will finally accept that depression of any kind is not something we can just “power through”. Our healthcare system classifies psychiatrists in a separate tier and sometimes limit the number of visits we can have in a calendar year. As if our symptoms can be wrapped up in a little bow in 20 sessions or less.
I changed my medication to Prozac during my pregnancy because it has been considered to have a lower risk. My son was born almost full term at a healthy 8 lb 7 oz and 22″ long. He has had one cold in his 16 months. But I fear that one day he is going to have a major health problem that is linked back to my use of antidepressants. All because they haven't sufficiently concluded if it was a true risk or not.
I beat myself up enough for not being a perfect mom.
This is one thing I know I got right.