Taking Antidepressants When Pregnant

Enjoying the beach with my baby

Enjoying the beach with my baby

Full disclosure:

I take antidepressants.

I will continue to take them through my pregnancy.

I took them while pregnant with Fia.

Internal conversation:

I can’t believe what you just revealed. Hurry. Duck and run for cover!!

No. I’m not going to. It’s time to get this conversation on the table.

You sure? You will be nailed to the cross on this one. Judged and deemed unfit for motherhood.

I don’t believe that. I think women are terrified of talking about this. I think many will feel relief that I’m admitting my own dirty little secret. They may carry the same secret. And it’s okay.

Do what you will but don’t say I didn’t warn you…..

Alright, it’s out there.  And I’m not shying away from it. It is my truth.

In my post about my dying mother, I mentioned her bipolar disorder. I breathe a deep sigh of relief that I don’t have that. But I do struggle with depression. And anxiety. For years I just “dealt” with it. With herbs and holistic medicine; with therapy and exercise; with meditation and yoga. Didn’t matter. Nothing changed how my chemical brain worked. I still do all those things, but now I take a small white pill everyday.

When I began taking it I felt this huge cloud lift. I felt less anxious. And far happier. I didn’t become an emotionless zombie. I became much more present in life–not in my head.

I went off of them a few times to see if perhaps I was “cured.” It can happen. Not me. That familiar dark cloud would start to drift into my periphery and I knew the storm was coming.

When I got pregnant with Fia, I struggled with my decision to stay on my meds. I even tried to wean off again. I felt the pit coming almost immediately. So I made my decision and stuck to it. I had to stop googling all the horrible things people talked about. I know it’s a risk. So is breathing the polluted air of NYC. So is going through the x-ray machine at the airport. So is my secret love of Taco Bell’s #3 with a diet Pepsi.

What I will say is more studies need to be done so women can have the facts. For a variety of reasons, there is just not a lot of conclusive data out there on taking antidepressants while pregnant. As an article in the NYT points out, pregnant women often aren’t part of drug studies. Therefore, a lot of the data is inferred, not proven. And even the most ardent studies have holes in them. I have an excellent OB and psychiatrist, both of whom agree: going through my pregnancy depressed and dark is far more dangerous than sticking to what works. (Also, during my pregnancy with Fia, we moved to LA for a bit. I saw 3 different OB’s/specialists. They all had the same unanimous opinion.)

What is proven is that some people have chemical imbalances. It’s in their genetic makeup.  And sometimes medicine is the only thing that works. Yet when taking those meds, the judgment from others can be severe. I guess that’s why women like me don’t disclose this. But today I’m feeling brave.

So there you have it.  Anyone else out there who wants to talk? I’m here.

Side note: I was recently informed about a study being conducted at Columbia University Medical Center exploring some of the issues around antidepressant use during pregnancy. If you are interested, and live in the NYC area, you can contact the study coordinator, Michelle Gilchrist at (212) 851-5175 OR mag2241@columbia.edu.

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  1. by Kelsey

    On August 17, 2011 at 4:08 pm

    I know the point of the blog is just to stir up conversations, but I wouldn’t worry about it too much. Like you said, going without the pills can be almost as dangerous if not moreso than taking them. And considering you have one healthy, anti-depressant baby, chances are you will be fine this time too. I was not on antidepressants while pregnant, and am not on them now, but I should be. We don’t have medical insurance so I have to go without, but its not fun and its often not pretty and its really, really not safe. Kudos to you for doing what you can to be safe.

  2. by Sarah

    On August 17, 2011 at 4:24 pm

    I LOVE that you shared this. After my first son was born post partum depression hit me like a semi. The only problem was that I never completely got better. I weaned off of the pills when he was a year and functioned “ok”. After my second son I totally lost it again but worse with anxiety. I was a train wreck, and my doctor and I both realized I should have started on the medication before he was even born. He is closing in on the one year mark, and I no longer take medication. I don’t have the depression, but the anxiety hangs around frequently. There are a lot of days when I know I would benefit from it but I try to handle it with other methods. I do know that if there is ever a third baby, I will begin anti-depressants before the baby even arrives. It will lead to a much healthier me and a MUCH healthier family life.

  3. by Alyssa

    On August 17, 2011 at 4:51 pm

    Thank you. I made it through my first pregnancy depression-free; my therapist said sometimes the hormones of pregnancy do that, making antidepressants unnecessary. Sometimes they don’t. My second pregnancy was totally different and I was a mess. Couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, didn’t want to move. It was so scary…how could my baby be healthy if I was feeling like I was on death’s doorstep? How can this be good for my child? So I talked to my OB and came to the same conclusion you did: depression while pregnant is unhealthy. For mother, for existing children, for the unborn child. Depression hurts the entire family. KNOWN risks. KNOWN damage. Antidepressants aren’t KNOWN to do anything negative. As you said, the studies aren’t there. So I chose to go back on my medication halfway through my pregnancy, and my son was born happy and healthy, and he was born to a happy and healthy mother and family.

  4. by Sam

    On August 17, 2011 at 4:51 pm

    Thank you for sharing. I have 4 children and have struggled with depression and anxiety for 2/3 of my life. I did not take anti-depressants and don’t take them now, though sometimes I think it’s a mistake. I keep trying the holistic approach. I don’t like the therapeutic approach of try this and we’ll see if it works, if not we’ll try some more and adjust. I just can’t do it. I wish there was a blood test that said, your chemical imbalance is “blah blah blah” and your ideal medicine is “blah”. Sounds like you have a good thing going and it works for you so stick through it. The only one time I relented was when PPD hit and in a scary way… 72 hours of no sleep, paranoid that if I closed my eyes something would happen to the baby. Yeah, it was bad and if you can stave that off from the get go, then you are doing the best thing for you and your baby. Congrats!

  5. by Tracy

    On August 17, 2011 at 4:54 pm

    I posted a comment on Parents Magazine Facebook, but I wanted to share with you my experience too.

    I know that every situation is different, and I do commend you for doing what you know is ultimately best for you. I tried to do the same for myself: I was severely depressed while I was pregnant with my youngest son. Or should I say, I became depressed after I got pregnant and everything else fell apart. My midwife prescribed some antidepressants so I took them for about a month. I’m not sure if the medication made it worse, or if I just spiraled into more of a depression because of my situation with my sons father. I wanted to end my life so badly I was counting out all the pills in the medicine cabinent, antidepressants, narcotic pain relievers, anti-biotics and some other over the counter stuff. I finally just flushed everything down the toilet, including the antidepressants. I survived and I’m in a much better place now. For me… like I said… I’m not sure if it would have worked, if it made it worse, or if my situation just worsened (from my perspective). Every woman and every pregnancy is different. Kudos to you for sharing and putting this out there.

  6. by ERC

    On August 17, 2011 at 4:55 pm

    You go girl! I took (and still take) them as well and have two amazingly well adjusted healthy perfect children. And you are right, I am a better mother because I took good care of myself. Thanks for putting yourself out there!

  7. by Rachel

    On August 17, 2011 at 4:56 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing your journey with this highly controversial topic. I too struggle with depression and anxiety that started after my son was born in 2009. Since I ignored the symptoms, I didn’t get put on meds for almost a year after my son was born. Now I am on the generic Zoloft and I love it. I feel so much happier! I have now been on the meds for almost a year and a half. I have tried to wean myself off but continue to go back to the same moody/angry person I used to be. I now wonder how I will be able to be on the meds while pregnant with baby #2. I know I need them, pregnant or not but I am worried for my unborn child. My plan is to talk to my OB doctor after I become pregnant and hope she can find something I can be on that is safer than others. I know if I don’t stay on the meds through my second pregnancy, my family will suffer and will have to deal with a very unpleasant me. Thank you again for making me realize that I can make it work!

  8. by Kelly

    On August 17, 2011 at 4:56 pm

    I too have struggled with Depression and anxiety. I took Wellbutrin for part of my pregnancy. I hate to do it but the choice had to be made. We are so quick to judge others. But they are not faced with the same darkness we all have. I have not been able to take anything. Everything made me zombie.. Not good.
    But thanks for the article

  9. by Marie

    On August 17, 2011 at 4:56 pm

    I’m going through this same decision right now; I was on my anti-depression meds with my first child (with no problems) and am now pregnant again. I’m not healthy without them; but the guilt that comes with taking them and the worry about possible problems is so hard! My doctor also agrees that the med I’m on and the low dose I have worked down to for the pregnancy aren’t huge risk factors-but there are so many unknowns it’s scary. I’m afraid that I will have to just suffer through the last few months without my meds…we’ll see. Thanks for talking about a tough subject. For people not directly involved, its’ so easy to say “just quit!”

  10. by Alexis

    On August 17, 2011 at 5:03 pm

    Thank you for sharing this. I am 23 weeks pregnant in a very deep, dark depression right now. I have suffered from depression my whole life and when my first daughter was born 3 1/2 years ago, I was off of them when pregnant, felt fine and never needed them since, thought I was “cured.” I was fine until getting pregnant. Now I was on fertility drugs trying to get pregnant so it is a much wanted pregnancy but don’t knwo what has come over me. I cry all the time, feel useless, helpless, worthless. If it wasn’t for my daughter, I would lock myself int he bedroom. I am gaining way to much weight, have no energy to do anything and really have no friends to talk to and stay to myself. I have been trying to hide it from my husband because when he sees me cry, he gets mad at me for crying “again.” I am just so sad. I have told my doctor and have been out of therapy for 2 years now. I called to try to go back and found out she moved far away and the thought of starting over sucks. My doctor offered me an antidepressant and I have declined. I have suffered through the side effects from them for so long in my life that I just don’t want those side effects again, especially the sexual side effects. With being pregnant, that side of me has picked up and I don’t want the pills to bring it back down. I know I might sound crazy for not taking the pills and getting help but I am trying to go without them. I am under a lot of stress and also hoping that if the stress goes away, the depression will too. Hoping my hormones will even out and I will feel better. However, I know that the choice of the pill is there and if I really need, I will go to it. Thanks for sharing this and giving me a chance to share what I am going through!

  11. by Tara

    On August 17, 2011 at 5:04 pm

    I went on Paxil CR before I got married, I went off to have my son, was ok until he was about 18 mos and went back on it. Went off to have my daughter and it was awful, dr prescribed zoloft but I got so sick just thinking about taking something while I was pg. I really suffered through the first tri-mester and felt better near the end but by no means was I mentally healthy for that pg. Now I am back on my meds and would love one more but I keep telling myself I can’t get pg while on my meds. Your article makes me want to investigate my options more.

  12. by Meredith

    On August 17, 2011 at 5:06 pm

    You posted this at such a great time for me! And i’m glad other moms can be open about it too. I’ve struggled with depression since graduating high school, being pregnant with my first got me out of my depression. She gave me a future to look forward to! But having dealt with it in the past, I knew how quickly it could come back. I miscarried less than a year ago, and was instantly put back in that dark, familiar place. I got on anti depressants, and took them until I got pregnant again. I figured everything would be fine, and I didn’t want to risk anything with this baby! But it’s slowly creeping back towards the end of my pregnancy, and I really feel like I need my medication again. Was actually going to discuss this with my dr. when i go tomorrow, so i’m glad to know that several of you have taken the meds with no problems!

  13. by Dee

    On August 17, 2011 at 5:10 pm

    Thank you so much for this article. So many people try to talk about what they know nothing about. It is refreshing to read the experience from someone who is not afraid of their truth. Every woman is different and I think no one would know what they would do unless they have actually been there in the belly of depression and anxiety. I am sure 100% of people would prefer to not take anything…but that is just not reality, and we do what we have to do to live happy and productive lives.

  14. by Jessica

    On August 17, 2011 at 5:16 pm

    When your depressed…having a baby yet another baby should be last on your list.. babies are wonderful yes but how can you eenjoy them with all the sadness above your head? Take a pill everyday to be happy? Thats not happiness thats the drug companies telling you take this n ull feel this way..but the problem is still there the depression is still there! You have to go to the root of the problem cant just take a pill n ur all better. Your kids will feel that n the days u dont tke or do take your pills theyll know “oh mom didnt take her pill today she’s been in the back crying all morning” is that something you want in ur everyday life?? no it isnt.. children come alone with their own challenges. Theses challenges alone send women who arent in depression into depression so why on earth would you add to when what you already have is too much? And then now with all the recalls for defects to these unborn babies from the medication your taking to be happy?? and a few of you women are still planning on more children and taking theses medication when you are putting your child in the ratio to be affacted or not affected..imagine how depressed you would be when you have your child and they have a heart defect and u spend day n night in an uncomfortable hospital room for weeks..months at a time all because you chose to take the risks or trusted your dr letting you take the risks…just because their doctors they dont know everything..life is a gamble gota know when to walk from the table before your all cleaned out. Get your depression controlled done and over BEFORE you have a baby. Not fair to the child when mommy has to pop a pill to give them a smile

  15. by Courtney

    On August 17, 2011 at 5:58 pm

    @Jessica: you clearly don’t understand clinical depression and chemical imbalances. The “root of the problem” is a chemical imbalance and the way you get it “controlled done and over” is by using medication in conjunction with therapy and/or other holistic remedies. Your kind of blindly judgmental attitude is precisely the reason why people don’t get help when it’s needed. It’s great that you don’t need medication, but don’t judge those who do.

  16. by Jessica

    On August 17, 2011 at 5:59 pm

    Like you my doctors and I decided that staying on my meds was a good idea, but be prepared. My son was born with numerous birth defects that can now be traced to use of an anti depressant during pregnancy. I wish my baby had not had to undergo the numerous surgeries and months in the NICU. It had made him the tuff little guy he is but still. I pray that your baby is healthy and unaffected by the meds. And there is no guarantee that because u take them he will have problems, just be prepared. And I agree that there needs to be more testing of medication before they say it’s safe for pregnancy, but how many of us want our babies to be guinea pigs. Hopefully studies linking the two can be more conclusive to help us all make the right decisions for each of us. Best of luck!

  17. by Wendi

    On August 17, 2011 at 6:14 pm

    I am so glad that you posted this, I know so many women who go through that emotional struggle with how to do what is best for them and their baby. I know that I was lucky that I wasn’t on them during my pregnancy but almost 8 years later figured out that shoot I probably should have been and I would have enjoyed more things about my pregnancy instead of being so full of worry about everything.

    I am now taking anti-depressants and seeing a therapist and getting help for all the issues that brought about the anxiety and what not as well as learning how to be a better healthier mom. If I have to stay on anti depressants then so be it. And if I ever have another child (currently going through a divorce so that doesn’t seem likely but who knows mister right could be around the corner) it will be a bridge I cross but I know that right now with out my medicine to help I would be very depressed and not at the top of my game. Congrats to you for doing what is right for you.

  18. by Mae

    On August 17, 2011 at 6:18 pm

    I have had chronic depression and PTSD since I was 16 years old. I have prescribed anti-depressants 2/3s of my life and spent about half of my life on them.

    I struggled with the idea that I needed a happy pill to make me normal. My last OB explained to me really well: She said that people with chronic depression need anti-depressants the same way that people with diabetes need insulin. It’s a medication meant to correct a chemical imbalance within our bodies. When the risks outweigh the benefits, it is better to take the medication we need to function properly and not put our lives and our baby’s life at risk.

    I went off my anti-depressants for my pregnancy and the following 3 years because I let my ex-husband convince me that taking anti-depressants was for the weak-willed. It was a huge mistake. I was a wreck and I was no good to anyone as a wife, mother or an employee. My life was just a blur of misery and I missed out on years with my son and suffered through pointless emotional pain and severed relationships. 4 years later I had the unexpected blessing of becoming pregnant again. This time my doctor convinced me to go on anti-depressants during my pregnancy. It was a much happier pregnancy. I have continued the anti-depressants with the support of my current husband (who works in the medical field and knows the importance of taking your prescribed medication!) for the last 4 years even through my 3rd pregnancy. I have 3 children who are healthy and beautiful and brilliant and I am a great mother to them and a great wife to my husband.

    It’s an absolute shame that people like my ex and Jessica (above), who have been blessed to never know the struggles we face with chronic depression, feel that they have the right to pass judgement on people who take anti-depressants. Let’s let the doctors be doctors and God be God and stop passing judgement on other people on matters we don’t understand.

  19. by Emmmylizzzy

    On August 17, 2011 at 6:25 pm

    I definitely think this is a topic that needs to be discussed more – not only amongst pregnant women, but in the general public as well. There is such a stigma against depression and mental health, that I think many are hesitant to seek help.
    I was diagnosed with OCD and depression in college and was put on a low dose SSRI in conjunction with therapy to control it. Getting help did a complete 180 on my life and I am such a happier, positive person than I was growing up.
    I continued to take my antidepressants through my first pregnancy/breastfeeding and still take them today – 20 weeks pregnant with my second with no problems whatsoever. My doctor and I both agreed that it would be much more unhealthy for both myself and the baby to go through the pregnancies without them.

  20. by Chrissy

    On August 17, 2011 at 6:47 pm

    Thank you for sharing your story. I think that this issue is something that a lot of women face but are afraid to talk about. I struggled with depression from the time I was about 16. I was on and off different medications for years, in and out of therapy, all of that. It wasn’t until I was in my early 20s that I was properly diagnosed with mild bipolar and put on the correct medication. I was symptom free for 6 years, longer than any other stretch when I became pregnant.

    When I became pregnant with my son, I had to talk to my psychiatrist and OB and it was decided that it was too risky for my health (and my baby’s) for me to go off my medication completely. I was a little luckier than most women because the medication that helps me is also one that, in much larger doses, is used to treat seizure disorders. There have been studies done on my particular medication. There aren’t any long term results yet (they just began the studies a little less than a decade ago I believe) everything that was out at the time of my pregnancy was saying that it would be safe.

    It is a difficult decision for any mother to make. I think the problem is that people who are not clinically depressed don’t realize that to those who are, going off your medication is just as dangerous as it would be for a diabetic to stop taking their medication, or someone with heart problems to try and wean off.

    My son will be two years old in a couple of weeks. He is healthy and happy and doing really well. He hit all his milestones at or, in a few cases, before he should and shows no signs of any ill effects. My husband and I are planning to have another child, and we have already decided that I will remain on my medication again through that pregnancy.

  21. by Tigerlily012475

    On August 17, 2011 at 6:48 pm

    I commend you for your bravery, you’re right, it’s not something that most pregnant women will come out and declare, although there is absolutely nothing wrong with taking care of your mental and physical health while pregnant! I take Zoloft for anxiety and have for 3 years now. I am 24 weeks pregnant. I talked with both my regular doctor, who prescribes the Zoloft and my OB and both said the exact same thing. That there have been many studies on Zoloft and pregnant women and the benefits far outweigh the risks. I was also on Wellbutrin and Trazodone (for sleep), now those two they both wanted me off of ASAP because there are risks involved with those drugs. No problem, I weaned off of them quickly and I’ve been fine.

    I was given the option to either stay on the Zoloft, wean off somewhat to a lower dose, or wean off completely if I wanted, my doctors left that decision in my hands. I lowered my dose slightly and then stayed with it for a few months. Now that we’re getting closer to delivery, I’m trying to back off the Zoloft slowly (very slowly) so that way once the baby is born, she won’t be having to go thru any of the withdrawal symptoms (just in case). I have to admit though, I think that once I have the baby, I will try going back on a low dose version of the Zoloft, because it truly changed my life. There is nothing wrong with these drugs, we have to take care of our mental health so we can take care of our babies!

  22. by Liz

    On August 17, 2011 at 7:38 pm

    Thank you for being a voice for those who may suffer in silence due to fear of the unknown. Going through a severe depression myself which began in early pregnancy I can totally relate. I would not have gotten through it without the help of medication. Depression is a serious illness that one can only truly understand if they have been through it themselves. The risk of what could have happened had to seriously be weighed against the risk of what my anxiety and depression could have done to my unborn child. And FYI she is a healthy happy baby girl.

  23. by Amber

    On August 17, 2011 at 7:54 pm

    Thank you for having the courage to stand up and talk about something so Taboo!!! Although people may agree with you, it isn’t their decision to make. I applaud you for making the best decision for you!!!!

  24. by Jill Cordes

    On August 17, 2011 at 7:56 pm

    Thank you to everyone who took the time and had the courage to post your comments on my blog. As I sit here, I am amazed by how many stories we all share with this current thread and the angst we go through. Even in writing the blog today, I was getting nervous about my decision to stay on my meds. I did taper down to the lowest dose I could handle, but of course, there is lingering doubt. I think there will be until my baby comes out as great as Fia (which I hope is the case). You guys also gave me some ideas for a follow up post which I’ll work on this week, so keep tuning in. It seems we give each other strength. Best, Jill Cordes

  25. by Emily

    On August 17, 2011 at 10:09 pm

    I was just reading in The Economist of all places about research showing that babies born to mothers who were depressed or under extreme emotional stress during their pregnances have actual changes in their brains that make them more prone to anxiety and fearfulness. I don’t have the article handy now and can’t remember the exact scientific details, but the gist of it is that there is a STRONG argument to be made for treating depression and anxiety by any means necessary during pregnancy, not just for the moms’ relief and ability to function, but for the babies’ functioning later in life. I started Zoloft when my youngest was 18 months old, and my oldest was 3, and my only regret is why did I not start sooner? I was functioning more or less OK, but experiencing no joy in life. What kind of mom is that? So glad I got over my fear of side effects (which have actually been non-existent, as far as I can tell) and can now enjoy life!

  26. by Lorrie

    On August 17, 2011 at 10:34 pm

    totally understand depression! I found smoking or using a vaporizer for pot to be a healthy & natural alternative for both baby & I. Learn what government doesn’t want you to know & I think you will find that when the pills stops working or the dosage needs to go up, the alternative is always the same amount up to you of course. I am still able to do the daily chores & with out the pains while prego, the best part it stops the anxiety- for me. im no hippie although I love them bc they loved me 1st. im highly educated, married with a dd, & ds on the way. im just saying of you ever get tired of pills … im just saying.

  27. by christina

    On August 18, 2011 at 10:43 am

    thank you so very much for this blog AND to all these strong women for sharing your stories and perspectives. KUDOS to all. i have suffered massive anxiety most of my life and seriously celebrated a new me upon starting meds (prozac initially and now on celexa)in my early 30s. i’ve always been on a low dosage and it’s helped me take the edge off. i can still cry when i’m sad and have feelings/emotions (good thing). i couldn’t believe how life changed for the better. and like jill, i experimented on 2 occassions by going off, thinking i was cured, and i bounced back into obssessive worrying and neurotic thinking. this is my brain and genetic makeup. I do NOT know what i would have done if i did not take meds before pregnancy — i did IVF 5x (old eggs); switched to celexa while trying to get pregnant (and i did get pregnant) and stayed on it my entire pregnancy. (all reviewed by my ob at Brigham and fertility psychiatrist). i had a wonderful pregnancy. and then life’s challenges caught up: full disclosure — life throws curve balls — my husband was diagnosed with cancer when we were 6 months pregnant, the twins were born a few weeks early which synched up to the time my husband was having his operation and 5 days post c-section i was running back/forth to 2 different hospitals – Brigham & Womens and Mass General taking care of 3 of the most important people in my life. It was THE most challenging time of my life. Fast forward 3.5 years — i have a cancer-free husband and a perfect toddler boy and girl. I am GRATEFUL that i was on meds before, during and after my pregnancy. I am a better mommy and wife (from coping to taking off my edge) and enjoy my life a heck of a lot more than pre-meds!

  28. by Carol

    On August 18, 2011 at 7:46 pm

    Congratulations Jill(and Phil)-so happy to hear your news. I know your Mom is smiling also. Be well!

  29. by Felicia

    On August 19, 2011 at 2:09 am

    Thank you so much for sharing your story! I have been on antidepressants for 6 years now and I feel like there is enough of a stigma with taking antidepressants in the first place, let alone during pregnancy. I am very thankful that I was able to go off of mine for both of my pregnancies, but I’m glad that you (and many of the other above commenters) were able to make the decision to stay on their meds if that is what was best for you!

  30. by Cate

    On August 19, 2011 at 9:17 am

    Depression can kill, quite simply, if not managed properly. Taking antidepressants through pregnancy is about weighing any risks: to your unborn child, the bonding process (which starts before your baby is born), yourself, your partner and any other children you may have. Sometimes other management techniques aren’t enough. I chose not to take medication during any of my pregnancies, and was fortunate that I was well supported and found my symptoms lessened during pregnancy. Following the recent birth of my fourth baby I had another choice to make, as I wanted to breastfeed, but felt I needed to return to medication to cope. I currently take sertraline, an SSRI which has been deemed the ‘safest’ option. It’s not ideal, and I do have dark days, but it has improved our quality of life. I don’t want my family to live in a dark cloud, nor do I want to look back at my child’s babyhood and remember it as joyless. x

  31. by Steph

    On August 19, 2011 at 9:19 am

    I was on low dose Effexor for anxiety/depression after my 1st child was born. My doctor never did any follow ups, never told me of the dangers, just wrote the prescription and sent me home. My anxiety was from her botching the birth of my first daughter and causing me to have an emergent c-section, and she knew we were upset about the whole thing and just wanted us out of her hair. She also put me on the wrong Birth Control pills. Long story short- I knew the BC pills were wrong so I stopped them, and the cloud lifted. So I decided to stop the effexor too, since all it did was numb me, but ended up pregnant before I weaned myself off. Since the pregnancy was a surprise, I took the effexor for the full first trimester. My baby was born with persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN), spent a month in a high level NICU, almost died. It was a horrific nightmare. Today she is a healthy 5 year old, but she does have mild-moderate high functioning cerebral palsy. Her entire life has been a challenge. Come to find out Effexor can cause PPHN! I had no other problems, I was a low risk pregnancy. While I understand the need for some woman to be on anti-depressants during pregnancy, I just urge those woman to find a doctor who understands the medications and the risks, and to try and find one that has the least risks associated with it. Unfortunately, some doctors don’t know or just don’t have time to care. I wish I had known then what I know now.

  32. by dna

    On August 19, 2011 at 9:33 am

    Thanks for sharing. I have bi-polar disorder. I tried to get pregnant off my meds, but ended up having a severe manic episode. When that happened I actually had many close friends tell me I didn’t deserve to be a mom. That I was too sick. When I’m on my meds I’m highly functional, I’m an executive career woman with a wonderful husband. Just like diabetics have to take their insulin when they are pregnant and the rest of their lives. I have to take my meds. That combined with cognitive behavioral therapy and our lives are wonderful. I spoke with at least 6 different physicians and I/they read all of the research we could find and basically the mom’s mental health is as important as her physical health. To have good mental health I need meds. I took my meds with my daughter. We closely monitored the pregnancy and I delivered a perfectly healthy baby girl. She is phenomenal. It’s been 3 years since her birth and I think she has made it all that much easier (not harder as the one woman explains above). If you have an illness you treat it. You take care of yourself so you can take care of your family. Kudos to you for this blog post. I think too many people hide this. I was actually VERY vocal during my pregnancy and after (I didnt’ breastfeed because of my meds). I was also judged by some for that. It’s a shame that in this day and age there is still so much IGNORANCE about that fact that depression and other mood disorders are illnesses. Not a choice and that we don’t just “take a pill to make mommy smile” we take our meds to stay healthy. Thank you!

  33. by Kristine

    On August 19, 2011 at 12:41 pm

    I’ve been on and off anti-depressants for years. Before I became pregnant with my first child I decided to try going off my med and was doing very well. Halfway through my pregnancy I developed some health issues and at one point I became suicidal and I knew I needed help. My doctor put me on Prozac and I continued with it through the rest of the pregancy and beyond. I was still on it 3 years later when I got pregnant with our youngest and I stayed on the whole pregnancy. There was no doubt in my mind that staying on was the best for my AND the baby’s health and I don’t regret it at all.

  34. by Vina

    On August 22, 2011 at 11:39 am

    Thank you so much for sharing, no one should quick to judge until they’ve experience it..and it’s just not only in your head, it’s reality..I suffered from panic attacks after a year of giving birth to my second child..I was that person who hates taking medication..until my attacks took over my life…I couldn’t go anywhere without feeling overwhelm and anxious that home and in bed in tears was typically my daily life…until depression took over and I decided that medication was worth the try…there were trials and tribulations with which meds worked but, once I found it, i felt back to normal instantly…like back to life!!after 8 years of being on paxil, I found out that I was pregnant with my third child…for the sake of my unborn, I was weaned off of the meds..only to have it come back and haunt me after..I had bouts of psychosis, fears, anger, anxiety, and depression..as much as I wanted to be strong and live my life content in this pregnancy..I was miserable…so, I decided to take zoloft on my fifth month into pregnancy..it helped,I am still on it and my daughter is 4 1/2 years old, healthy and beautiful, and she was breastfed til she was 4years old..

  35. by OffMeds

    On August 23, 2011 at 5:38 pm

    Hi – Bravo to the author of this blog post for coming clean. That said, for women who are committed to staying off meds while pregnant this device is an option to explore:


    It’s expensive but there’s a 90% money-back 60-day trial period. Insurance reimbursement is possible but unlikely when used for depression. I am 29 weeks and have used it for three or four months and I love it. You need a prescription, so talk to your shrink about it. I would never have tried anything so kooky if I hadn’t gone off lamictal after five years of being (happily) on it, because I got pregnant. I was not suicidal, but I was miserable (though not dangerously so) off the drugs and with the device I am happy. maybe it’s placebo, i don’t know. but i am not stopping.

    If an editor or admin of the Parents site reads this and is curious enough to know more they are welcome to contact me through my private email.

  36. by eileen Matthews

    On August 23, 2011 at 7:26 pm

    You are so amazing to me. Your honesty and wonderful way of writing is so real and revealing. This is your true calling.

  37. by Toni

    On August 24, 2011 at 7:03 am

    I too took antidepressants during my 2nd pregnancy. Thank God we have a healthy 3 month old daughter (no defects so far…). My 1st pregnancy was so stressful and I felt like a monster. I was also going through a terrible relationship with the father. We survived somehow for a few years with a few splits in between. I knew I suffered from severe moodiness and depression but who could blame me for how unhappy I was with my life and stressed out from being a stay at home mom while dad was at work most of the time also leaving for 3 months after our daughter was born for work in another state. Anyway years later… I began taking antidepressants before my 2nd pregnancy with the advice of 3 doctors and I was also seeing a phychologist. And then came the comercials. Constant guilt while hearing all the warnings and lawsuits. Then the looks from daddy “Did u see this?” but thankfully a much better prenancy and less stressful (which is much healthier for the baby) and now 3 months and no post pardem as with my first. I am also breastfeeding. I do pray to God I am not harming her but I have been assured by my drs that it is the safest and lowest dose and shouldnt cause any effects on my baby. I am sure my emotions are in more control then they have any part of my life and I am sure this behavior is safer for all of us.

  38. by mya

    On October 17, 2011 at 8:16 am

    I am a lawyer who handles mass torts. Recent medical research shows that taking Zoloft (or other SSRI’s) during pregnancy is linked to autism. Originally, research did not find the connection, but we now have evidence of the link. I am very sensitive to this issue because it has impacted my family. I am only trying to spread the word so people can protect their rights and the rights of their children. You can go to chadpinkerton.com for more information or contact me at 1-855-ZOLOFT-1. If this is out of line, I apologize in advance. My intention is only to help. And, I can help.

  39. by prozac birth defect

    On December 8, 2011 at 4:01 pm

    It is a very touching post and it does raises the question should one take antidepressants during pregnancy or not?

  40. by Jen

    On December 28, 2011 at 12:08 pm

    What some doctors are not saying is…depression after pregnancy, in most cases, is caused by one’s thyroid. A woman goes from having ‘super charged’ hormones when pregnant, to a significant drop in those hormones after giving birth…causing a drop in serotonin levels and other hormones. This was my personal experience. When I asked my doc about putting me on antidepressants, after some discussion, he sent me to an endocrinologist. My thyroid was a mess! He put me on thyroid medication for 3 months and everything was back to normal, including my mood and outlook on life! I am so grateful! Three of my friends went on antidepressants and 4 years later are ‘sluggish,’ tired, can’t think straight and have become seriously overweight as a result of the chemical imbalance/changes the antidepressants have made. Obviously, I’ve cut a long story short, but the general idea is there. I was just hoping to give some women an idea as to what does happen and rather than spend one’s life taking prescription drugs, there may be a much better solution. No need to fake offense, just offering another solution.

  41. by Jill Cordes

    On December 28, 2011 at 10:15 pm

    I think that’s an excellent point Jen, and one I’ll definitely remember for myself too! Thanks for sharing.

  42. by antidepressant birth defect lawsuits

    On January 17, 2012 at 1:25 pm

    I don’t know what to say… I’m really scared about the numbers of birth defects cases. I guess there’s a slight chance that a pregnancy might be affected from these pills. I think you should reconsider and look for some more advice!

  43. by KM

    On February 14, 2012 at 11:44 am

    If you can’t quit the drug addiction (Yeah, that’s what it is. People go on antidepressants because they refuse to deal with being sad like everyone else.) then don’t get pregnant. Adopt!

    I find these lawsuits against Zoloft, Paxil, etc. to be incredibly dumb. What kind of an idiot takes ANY drugs during their pregnancy? Even the “safe” stuff given during labor like Pitocin is horrible for you and your baby. I’m sorry but if people can’t kick the drug habit I won’t feel sorry for them if they miscarry or if their baby has birth defects. I will feel sorry for the baby because unlike you, they don’t get to make choices about their health.

    Don’t subject an innocent baby to this moronic risk. If you can’t deal with being sad for nine months, chemical imbalance or not, you shouldn’t be having a child.

    Also, if this is “genetic” as people say, why would you bring a child into the world knowing their future will be one of drug dependancy?

  44. by KM

    On February 14, 2012 at 11:47 am

    I find it apalling that there are plenty of people out there who have children with birth defects that did NOTHING wrong during their pregnancy, yet idiotic people get pregnant knowing they are gonna be on drugs the whole time. I hate the antidepressant companies for hooking people on this crap, but none of these so called “moms” should have the right to sue.

  45. by Keri-Lyn

    On August 3, 2012 at 2:53 pm

    The amount of ignorance posted in some of these comments is very disheartening.

    Depression is not just being “sad”. It must be so easy to judge a person with being sick and taking medication to feel better, because you don’t understand the sickness. The meds people take for depression are not “happy pills”. People with depression have an inability to feel joy. Medication that helps correct a chemical imbalance doesn’t make you “happy”. It merely allows people with depression to experience joy. People taking antidepressants aren’t “happy all the time”, they are NORMAL. They will experience sorrow, joy, happiness, sadness, and a complete range of emotions like a normal person does.

    Being depressed and off medications can have a more devastating effect on a child than the meds can. No, it’s not the ideal situation in which to have a child. A depressed person has no less of a right to have a child than anyone else. You are poor, you shouldn’t have children. You are ugly, you shouldn’t have children. You aren’t married, you are gay, you have diabetes, you shouldn’t have a child. Ignorance!! Plain and simple.

    If you haven’t experienced depression, anxiety, the severity of the outcomes of trying not to be on medication when it’s clearly needed, then you simply don’t know what it’s like. I have a beautiful, healthy, loving, smart child and I am doing the best I can to be the best mother I can be. My child is VERY lucky because of the life I can afford to give her, and her happiness and well-being are the goals of my life. We are all very happy although I still take meds and go to therapy and WORK hard at my mental health, for myself and my child. How dare you judge me!

  46. by Kat

    On August 10, 2012 at 9:01 am

    Thank you so much for publishing this article, it is so refreshing to read this compared to all the reports, studies and forums which just make me feel guilty. I took a low level SSRI with my son and had a great pregnancy and healthy baby, but now I would love to have another baby but am on a higher dose so not sure what to do!! This makes me feel much more normal x

  47. by anne-kinsey

    On August 30, 2012 at 3:22 pm

    Can anyone who took zoloft during pregnany share what dose they were on? I tried to stay off for my pregnancy but I can’t do so due to daily panic attacks and anxiety that forced me to quit my job and barely leave the house. I just want to know what others have taken. My doctor, who is great and considered one of the best in LA, says its a case by case basis and won’t share – yet I want to know if the dose I am going to take is considered high. I am terrified of PPHN or other issues.

  48. by A Mommy Blogger Bully | Fearless Feisty Mama

    On September 28, 2013 at 7:20 pm

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