What I’m about to share with you is deeply personal and from my own experience, not professional advice from a doctor. I am a firm believer that each mom needs to be her own advocate for what she feels is right in her pregnancy.
My husband and I had a whirlwind romance. We met, dated, got engaged, and married in less than a year. Due to our ages and the fact that our family already including two elementary school aged kids, we knew that we would start trying for a baby on the honeymoon. So before the wedding, I met with my new OB for a conception consultation. I needed to know his thoughts on mixing pregnancy with my antidepressant.
I had already done my own research on the subject and I knew where I stood. My (relatively new to me) psychiatrist wanted me to go off of it during the first trimester but after reading some reputable medical articles, consulting friends in the same situation, and knowing that I knew me better than he did, I wasn’t comfortable doing that.
There is a long history of depression in my family and in the last 10 years. I had already experienced a handful of major episodes where getting up out of bed exhausted all the energy I could muster. I spent a large portion of my early 20s toxically self medicating but I eventually found a therapist with whom I really connected. She managed to convince me to try some medication that allowed my brain chemistry to level out enough so I could actually deal with my issues and learn healthy coping skills for depression triggers.
So that background combined with my rapidly approaching 35th birthday and a maternal family history of miscarriages meant I wanted a doctor who would support my decision to stay on medication. Fortunately, mine did. He told me that given my past, my baby would be healthier if I was emotionally and mentally healthy. My psychiatrist tried to convince me that the pregnancy hormones would kick in and protect me and the baby. And he might have been right but I wasn’t prepared to take that risk. I needed the extra security of knowing that the antidepressant was there and working to protect us as well.
I miscarried our first baby right after the holidays. It was devastating. I was angry and sad and yet I didn’t sink into a depression that kept me in bed all day. I was able to function. I was able to talk to our counselor and deal with the loss. I was thankful that I had decided to stay on the medication throughout that experience.
Five months later, I took a pregnancy test on a whim after months of fruitless trying and it came up positive. Fear of another miscarriage instantly flooded my body. The anxiety might have overwhelmed me but I was able to manage it with the help of my incredibly understanding husband, coping skills I learned, and the medication keeping my brain chemistry balanced. The weeks crept by, and our baby boy grew and grew. And I continued taking my medication with the blessing of my new OB.
My pregnancy took a huge physical and emotional toll on me. Because of this, our baby entered the world via a c-section and was immediately whisked off to the NICU to help his keep his oxygen levels up. Inconclusive lab results, low oxygen levels and finally a choking/seizure spell caused alarm bells to ring. Specialists were called in, a lumbar puncture was ordered and eventually an ambulatory transfer to Children’s Mercy happened. The doctors were worried about a stroke in utero.
My husband and I and our families were in tears. And once again, I was thankful that I had the medication to keep my brain from dissolving into the pit of depression that would leave me unable to be the mom my son needed.
One of the symptoms that caused the doctors to suspect a stroke was his tone (the tightness in his limbs); after 24 hours of monitoring brain waves, he was declared perfectly normal neurologically. I’m not a doctor; I don’t know what really happened. But I have a strong suspicion that withdrawal from my medication contributed to the symptoms the doctors were seeing. If he had started breastfeeding immediately, it could have been more of a gradual weaning but since he didn’t get my milk until day 3 or 4, that withdrawal could have caused the tight tone the doctors saw.
Nine months later, he’s a healthy, happy, adventurous, and opinionated little guy and such a blessing to our family. If I was given the chance to do it all over again, I would still make the choice to stay on my medication during my pregnancy. It was the right choice for me and for our family. I needed to be my healthiest self, not just physically, but also mentally and emotionally.