**This post details my own personal experience surrounding my decision to start anti-depressants during pregnancy. The decision whether to take medication or not is different for each individual. This post is for information purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about medication and what options are available to you. **
When I was pregnant with my son Gibson, I developed severe antenatal depression. I had a difficult time sleeping, very little appetite, was anxious 24/7, and I cried a lot. After months of struggling to figure out what was wrong, at my husband’s request, I talked to my midwife about it. My midwife referred me to our local Perinatal Mental Health Program that was run through the hospital. The program changed my life, and was truly the best thing I could have possibly done for myself and my baby.
Being diagnosed with depression at 34 weeks pregnant was a tough pill to swallow (read more about that here). I am generally a pretty upbeat kind of girl, so feeling incredibly overwhelmed and defeated while pregnant was terrible. But, with my diagnosis also came a HUGE sense of relief. For months I had been trying to make myself feel better. I tried yoga, meditation, walking, journaling, anything I thought would help, but nothing worked. I desperately wanted this baby and I wanted more than anything just to be happy.
Learning it Wasn’t My Fault
When I found out that I had antenatal depression my shoulders felt a thousand pounds lighter. I finally had an explanation for why I had been feeling this way, and it wasn’t my fault. During my first appointment at the Perinatal Mental Health Program we discussed treatment options. As I mentioned, my depression was quite severe so medication was discussed as an option. During that appointment I advised that I did NOT want to take medication. I had hoped that implementing other changes would be all that was required.
My nurse practitioner totally respected my decision, but explained it would also be totally fine if I changed my mind. She said ultimately we wanted me to be feeling as good as possible before the baby arrived. Mom needs to be healthy in order to best care for her baby
Making the Decision to Take the Meds
By 10:00 am the next morning, after yet ANOTHER sleepless night, I decided to go on the medication. My body felt overwhelmed by the anxiety and I didn’t want to feel like that anymore. I had an appointment with my family doctor the next day and started medication at 34 weeks. It was the best decision I could have made.
It took several weeks to wean myself onto the medication. The side effects were challenging and got worse before they got better, but they did get better!
It didn’t happen right away, and wasn’t until after my son arrived that my anxiety started lifting and I first noticed myself feeling better. I was meeting with the nurse practitioner from the Perinatal Mental Health Program every week and doing cognitive behavioural therapy with her, as well as taking the medication. Within a month or so I was feeling much better. Within two to three months of starting the medication I was feeling like myself again. And it felt absolutely amazing.
Taking an Anti-Depressant during my Pregnancy did NOT make me a bad mom
Taking an anti-depressant during my pregnancy did NOT make me a bad mom. I had to take care of myself in order to best care for my baby, and medication was a big part of helping me get better. My son is now a super happy, delightful two year old. I am pleased to report that with the aid of medication, and cognitive behavioural therapy, his first year of life will go down as one of my best years.
This is not to say that going on medication is the right choice for everyone, but it 100% was the right choice for me. I weighed the pros and cons, and learned about the risks and benefits. Then I ultimately decided that medication was the best form of treatment for me at the time. If I had to do it all over again, I would do it the same (except maybe getting help MUCH sooner).
If you are struggling with a perinatal mood disorder please reach out to get support. You do not need to be in it alone. Talk to your health care provider, or to someone you know who would be understanding, or contact resources online. There is help available and you do not need to feel like this. With proper care it can and will get better.