Should Depressed People Procreate?


Before Phil and I had kids, we used to joke that with our combined genes we shouldn’t procreate.  Depression runs on both sides. Autism runs on his. Bipolar and addiction are strong on mine. And we both suffer from mild depression/anxiety ourselves. But despite these “bad genes,” what we really meant was we didn’t want kids. It was our excuse to remain selfish over selfless.

Thank god we changed our minds, because being selfless is far more gratifying. Plus, we have still retained plenty of our selfish lifestyle. We do date nights. But instead of coming home to an empty house, we get to kiss our babies while they sleep. There is nothing finer. We still take trips–we just take them with us. And frankly it’s far more fun. We still hike. Only now we each have a baby on our back (probably a better workout anyway). The things Fia sees in nature and her delight in something as simple as a spider web makes it far more interesting. But I digress. That’s not the point of this post.

In a recent interview, Sarah Silverman said she doesn’t want to have children for fear of passing on the depressive/mentally ill gene. Some called her brave and responsible for this. I call it ridiculous.  An article in Time pointed out, rightfully so, that, “the same genes that can cause depression may also encourage the sensitivity and sensibility that gives Silverman her creative talent.”

Thank you!

I caused a decent amount of controversy when I wrote about my decision to stay on antidepressants while pregnant. Some called me selfish. Others said I shouldn’t procreate. But far more people came to my defense. Many were relieved to find they weren’t alone in their decision to do the same. Plus, studies show the drugs I am/was on had no greater chance of causing birth defects than pregnant women who don’t take anything.

I hope Fia and Emmett don’t struggle from depression or addiction. If they do though, I have the resources and information to get them proper help. I also believe that raising a child in a loving, stable, and nurturing environment counts for something. In my early formative years, my home was all that. It wasn’t until I was a teenager that things got a little ugly. Even so, I still turned out fine (I think). I contribute to society (I think). In fact, I have often said I’m grateful for the hardships I experienced. It made me the person I am today.

I have no doubt my kids will make this world a better place. They already have.  Whether they end up suffering from a “bad gene” is beside the point.

Here’s who I don’t think should procreate: Abusive, neglectful people. I believe they will become abusive, neglectful parents. I’ll add lazy and inept to the list. And those who have more kids than they can afford who keep procreating because they’re probably too lazy or inept to use birth control. But a smart, witty, compassionate person who happens to suffer from mental illness, like Sarah Silverman? I bet she’d make a great mom and raise interesting, well-adjusted kids. There are plenty of reasons to not have biological children. And plenty of good, noble reasons to adopt. Or to just stay childless. But don’t make it because of a mental gene. There are far better excuses one could come up with.


Photo of Human Body via Shutterstock

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  1. [...] Should depressed people procreate? ( [...]

  2. by KLC

    On June 27, 2012 at 11:36 am

    Hi Jill

    Where were you when I was pregnant!!!??!! I stumbled upon your blog surfing the net at work – as a working mom and also someone who suffers from depression/anxiety, struggled with the decision to stay on meds during pregnancy (tried to wean, with horrific results) went back on them… I was on Prozac, but after having my daughter (Isabella, now 3 1/2) I had horrible post partum and was switched to Celexa (clouds part, angels sang, etc) with a side of wellbutrin. I was wondering which meds you have taken or are taking. I read your “inner dialog” when you decided to share your decision to stay on meds (which, in my opinion, it’s really not a “decision” as much as it’s something that has to be done for sanity, health, and well-being) and I was actually LOL’d. I remember feeling so guilty and having no one to talk to. I live in Cow Hampshire (moved while pregnant from the Boston Area – boston docs were much more approving) so the docs here gave that disapproving look. I actually had one gynecologist say to me, when I asked what was safe to take for heartburn, “Don’t you think you’re taking enough medication?”. Wow. Next! I, like you, have tried several times to wean (over the past 13 years) and it’s exactly like you describe, that dark cloud moving in. Reading your blog is like a breath of fresh air! We are undecided on #2 but haven’t ruled it out. Anyway I see you’re a pretty busy lady but it was so wonderful to bump into you! More on topic to the current post – well I guess that’s Sarah’s opinion, she’s allowed to express it, but I think she’s feeding into her own depression by denying herself children, if she really wanted them. As you and I can testify I’m sure, there is no greater love. I NEVER wanted to get married and have kids, until I met the guy I wanted to get married and have kids with! And I couldn’t agree with you more, that if our kids DO end up with depression/anxiety, us as parents will be better able to recognize the symptoms and help them through it. Also, I breast fed for almost 11 months (introduced formula at 6 months) because although I was taking my celexa, I was unable to take Clonopin while breastfeeding (or pregnant, for that matter) – some meds are just known to be bad for baby… So the decision to stick w/breast feeding was a tough one, and introduced formula so I could start to wean so I could take some anti-anxiety meds. I was BENT on doing it for the 6 months exclusively (pumping at work) and said when she got teeth, I would start to wean. Well she didn’t pop a tooth till almost a year old! Guilt at wanting to stop! I’d also like to say that my daughter, who will be 4 in November, is absolutely perfect. With the exception of pooping on the potty that is. Hey at least she can put on her own pullup! She is healthy and happy and SWEET and loving and KIND. I had a crappy childhood (addiction, depression, etc run rampant in my family) so I tell her I love her several (maybe a million) times a day, and I say sorry when warranted (two things that were not spoken in my household growing up). She is very sensitive but although frustrating I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. I just love the sh*t outta that kid!

    Anyway, I’ve babbled enough. Thank you very much for sharing yourself with the world. I wish I had known about you sooner! Your children are beautiful and look so happy. Good job Mamma!!

  3. by Jill Cordes

    On June 27, 2012 at 12:44 pm

    Hey Kari. Wow, thanks for your long note. I totally hear you on so many levels and I’m glad you stumbled upon me. Both for pregnancy and for breastfeeding I am on 10 mg of Lexapro and 150 mg of Wellbutrin. With both babies, I weaned off the Lexapro the last 3 weeks before delivery, so they wouldn’t have any of the extra fussiness that can sometimes happen. Then I went back on. In fact, Lexapro is now an L2 for breastfeeding, meaning that in limited studies it has shown to have no effect. There is a lot on my blog about this, some stuff about my crazy childhood, etc that I think you can relate to, so just put words in the search button and have fun! Keep me posted/feel free to keep commenting. And stick to your mama instincts!

  4. by C Knight

    On August 3, 2012 at 1:53 pm


    Thank you for opening up a dialogue about depression and the decision to have children, along with your other posts about antidepressant use during pregnancy. I struggled with this question for years, entirely undecided about whether or not I should have kids due to my long history of depression, only to have the decision ultimately taken out of my hands. I conceived while on birth control—and several antidepressants—(SURPRISE!) and am now 5 months along. Once I was pregnant, the decision to keep the baby was ultimately an easy one. From more than 15 years of experience with battling depression both on and off meds, I knew that going off anti-depressants entirely was not an option; I wouldn’t be able to get out of bed, let alone keep my job or take care of my health, all essential factors in raising a family. So for me, the decision hinged on whether or not I could safely stay on meds at an effective dosage without putting the health of the baby or my own health at serious risk. I didn’t discover that I was pregnant until I was more than 10 weeks along, so as you said in an earlier post, the damage was already done by that point. But thankfully, I found a psychiatrist who specializes in women’s reproductive health, who has counseled me on the current science and helped me find lower but still effective dosages of my medications (I’m on Prozac, Wellbutrin and Abilify). I plan on breastfeeding, and will certainly need to maintain the medication regimen at that point to prevent post-partum depression, for which I’m particularly at risk due to my history.

    I have no doubt that raising a child will change my life for the better. And I have growing confidence that, with continued medication and therapy, I can be a good mother for my baby. I’m just glad that I now have that opportunity.