31 Jan
I’m Pregnant And Depressed But Are Drugs The Answer?

Dear Mouthy Housewives,

I am currently almost 4 months pregnant. When I found out I was pregnant I was taking an antidepressant. I immediately got off of it. My problem is that I am now suffering from severe depression and having panic attacks almost every day.

I went to see a new OB/GYN at the suggestion of a friend (my old OB wasn’t well versed in medications). This doctor believes that it would be better for me to be on the antidepressant than to suffer like this through the rest of my pregnancy. She has even suggested that I see a psychiatrist.

My problem is that I’m really conflicted and scared. I don’t want to hurt my baby. My family thinks that if I take anything it will detrimental to my child’s health. I really want to do what is right for my baby but I don’t think that my current mental and emotional state is helping either. What should I do?

Please help!

Anxious About Antidepressants


Dear AAA,

People are really great because just as we all bleed red (except Tom Cruise, I think his insides are made of green slime) we also all have opinions. And we love to share them!

I’m not sure if any of your family members are medical professionals so I can’t speak to their qualifications but even so, it’s possible that their closeness to the situation is interfering with their judgment. And family pressure can be especially difficult to handle.

It’s best to begin to draw your boundaries now because this is just the tip of the iceberg. Wait until you have chosen a name for the child, at least 75% of your family will know a dog, drug addict, or vagabond with that name. And when you want to sleep train or not sleep train your child you will get no fewer than 20 suggestions as to what you should really do, these may or may not include the following:

-give the baby a drop of whiskey

-wear ear plugs

-sleep with your child until they are 12

-bundle the baby in no less than 5 layers, including hat and mittens

-walk around the crib 2 times clockwise

-call Tom Cruise and ask his advice

The good news is, it sounds like your new OB/GYN is being extremely careful. The fact that she even wants you to go and see a psychiatrist for a another opinion regarding your mental health tells me that she is really looking out for both your welfare and that of your unborn child.

I have to note here, however, that I am biased. I struggled with depression and anxiety throughout my pregnancy and was prescribed an antidepressant by my doctor, who specializes in pregnancy and women’s mental health. She doesn’t recommend a lot of medication and she was extremely cautious about what I took, making sure I was at the lowest dosage necessary. My son was born happy, healthy and a week late. I’m only telling you this so that you know you are NOT alone, I am not trying to persuade you one way or the other.

Everything we put in our bodies comes with a certain amount of risk and this goes triple for medication. The important thing to focus on here is the question of whether the benefits outweigh that risk. This decision should be made between you, your partner, and your doctor and no one else.  I could go into numerous studies done on women with depression who didn’t take anything while pregnant and studies done on those who did, but I believe that this is the domain for your OB/GYN and your psychiatrist. They will help you to choose the right route for you and your baby.

The best of luck!

Tonya, TMH


21 Responses to “I’m Pregnant And Depressed But Are Drugs The Answer?”


Comment by Tiffany.

Worthy question! most docs are limited in how much guidance they can give here too, but they may be more objective than family members. My understanding (admittedly anecdotal) is that our babies’ development is more likely to be affected by anti-depressants during the third trimester. Fine-tuning of cardiac & respiratory organs, etc. Your baby is almost guaranteed to suffer, in varying degrees, if your depression is untreated. You are their only tether to physical and mental health! No pressure?! Eek. Be good to yourself, consult with those you trust and who will not judge. I would expound on my own choices (four times, different each) but I’m trying to stay off the HHS Watch List for unstable breeders. Feel free to email me at borgeskids@gmail.com if it seems like my experience is useful or you want to ask anything specific. Peace.


Comment by Desperate Dietwives.

I totally agree with Tonya and Tiffany. Psichiatrists know best their drugs and can prescribe you a good one with the lowest possible impact on your baby. Don’t leave your depression and panic attacks untreated, they are more likely to affect your baby than a carefully administered drug.


Comment by DoNotFaint.

I struggled for an entire year about what I would do with my anti-anxiety medication before trying to get pregnant. I learned a whole lot and wrote an article about it, which I would not promote here except that it has a list of links to resources at the bottom. If you are within driving distance of New York, you can email me at amtonyan [at] gmail [dot] com and I will give you all the contact info for the psychiatrist I’ve been seeing–she is an expert in perinatal mental health. Her #1 goal was to try and get me off my meds and educate me about the risk. Her #1 strength as a doctor is that she is completely nonjudgmental and kind. Experts like this are really, really hard to find, but here’s my article with a list at the bottom of where you might find one, even if you end up talking to someone on the phone (there’s a free service for that called OTIS):


Comment by Bean.

Honey, you can’t have a healthy baby if you don’t have a healthy mom. There are lots of options out there for antidepressants – some have a much lower risk of any complications for babies than others. Talk to your doctor if you need more info – but take care of YOU.
Be gentle with yourself, and do what you need to do.


Comment by sisterfunkhaus.

Many, many women take anti-depressants during pregnancy with no issues. I think it is more important for you to be mentally healthy. The chances of it affecting your fetus are slim to none, as many anti-depressants are safe for pregnancy.

DoNotFaint Reply:

This is very true–the risk is *very* low and almost all of the risks disappear after the first trimester! That said, our doctor was so insightful with this comment: “If your family is one of the statistics, the statistics won’t matter any more. I want you two to go and really think about how you might feel if your baby is born with a birth defect. No one will ever know if the meds caused it, but will you kill yourselves with guilt?”

vodka tonic Reply:

Uh, or will you kill yourself from the depression and anxiety, first?

DoNotFaint Reply:

In my case, I would kill myself from the anxiety and depression first, so we’re going to risk the guilt. Here’s hoping I live through it.


Comment by Farrah.

I experienced some SEVERE anxiety and depression while on bedrest- I went on zoloft my 3rd trimester after talking with several docs and getting multiple opinions. Basically- I learned that if I did not go on it, my anxiety could possibly mess up my ability to make milk and stir up my propencity for ppd. I did it, don’t regret it and made it. I hope the best for you 🙂


Comment by Plano Mom.

This is one bit of advice I can definitely comment on, and Tonya is spot on. One thing I would add is regardless of the decision, don’t stop seeing that psychiatrist – they are your best friend in continuing to evaluate where you are emotionally, and whether your decision is still appropriate given your immediate mental state.

Also, if you decide not to medicate, please, please, don’t turn it into a “character test,” refusing to allow a change of heart if your symptoms get worse.


Comment by greek4cheerful.

I took Zoloft while I was pregnant with my 3rd child. Three days after he was born he began crying and didn’t stop for what seemed like years. When I decided to stop taking Zoloft I went through MAJOR withdraws, though I had been assured that there would be none. I had a strange tremor that went through my head and radiated down my neck and arms– it drove me insane! It took me two years to finally get off of Zoloft, which included a two week stay at my sister’s house down south because I found it impossible to deal with the withdraws and my children at the same time. In retrospect I wondered if my 3rd child felt that way days after leaving the womb and his endless zoloft supply. Is that why he cried and cried and cried? I don’t know. He is number 3 of 5 and he is the only one that didn’t walk until he was nearly 17months old, has a developmental delay of 6 months, has a language delay and fine-motor skill issues (his hands tremble when he tries to do anything with the tips of his fingers: button a shirt or pants, tie his shoes, etc). I can’t prove that it was the zoloft, but I will always be suspicious that it was. I’m not completely against antidepressants, but I would never take them again while pregnant. That’s just my opinion, and I’m sure you can find other women who say that they had no problems and their children show no sign of having been carried by a woman on them. But this is my experience and I had to tell you about it.

mtwildflower Reply:

I understand there are lawsuits against he makers of Zoloft in regard to pregnant women taking it while they were pregnant and ill effects their babies had afterward.

Have you explored this at all?

Tonya Reply:

I believe it’s important to leave it to her medical professionals to discuss this with her since there are endless studies that contradict one another.

DoNotFaint Reply:

The studies do contract each other about lots of things, but the studies about maternal depression and stress consistently mention difficult temperament and developmental delays. It really feels like a lose-lose situation when I read stories like this. And a lower dose might lower risk from the drug but increase risk if it’s not an effective treatment. It’s just so impossible to untangle possible causes, and so heartbreaking to wonder endlessly if a single decision might have changed everything. My heart goes out to you.


Comment by mtwildflower.

I didn’t take any drugs when I was preggo with any of my 8 kids. Once in awhile, I would have a glass of beer when I was in my 3rd trimester, but nothing else.

I had two kids born with birth defects anyway, one who died and one who lived.

Unless you are a crack addict, birth defects are often just luck of the draw. Further, if your unborn child will have one, chances are he or she already has it, despite your not taking medication for the first trimester plus.

Get with a good psychiatrist and follow their suggestions. There is no sense in being emotionally miserable for the next 5 mos when you don’t have to be.

Further, don’t skip any prenatal testing that can give you a heads up on problems your baby might be born with, because knowing ahead of time can make all the difference.

And if you do have a baby who has problems when he or she is born, it’s not your fault. Sometimes, it just happens that way. ((hugs))


Comment by Megan.

I was depressed from about the minute I got pregnant. I did not take medication for it. My child had a stroke in utereo and was born with Cerebral Palsy.

It’s a crap shoot, sweetie. All you can do is get as much information as possible as decide how you want to spend the next five or so months. It’s a long haul when you can barely get out of bed in the morning.


Comment by I'm a big ol' b with a captial B!.

I just have to say I am LOVING all the comments above. I love all the caring and concern for the poster. I love the non-judgmental words. I love the personal stories (and thank you for sharing them). I am loving it all. What a heart-warming thing to read–women supporting women.

I don’t have anything else to add. Do your research and make your decision the wisest way possible. It’s not easy either way. (HUGS)


Comment by wendy.

If it were me, I would see the psychiatrist. I’m not a medication pusher (though I am a licensed mental health provider.) A psychiatrist, preferably one who specializes in post-partum depression, is most up to date on the medication warnings. There are some relatively safe antidepressants for pregnancy. I have several friends (and way more patients) who took them through their pregnancies and baby is healthy.

Another consideration – growing body of research about the in-utero effects of the mother’s mental state on the baby. What I got from the literature I read – a mother who is depressed or anxious might be negatively impacting the development of the baby. So it might be in the baby’s best interest to treat your depression. Not to mention, post partum depression is a mo-fo. Think it’s bad now? Could get much worse. Better to treat proactively, many believe. On a not good note, I had a lot of stress/anxiety and extended family intrusiveness (really stressful) so I was worried and angry and frustrated a lot of the time. This baby is now a teen with anxiety issues, sees a therapist, we’re trying to decide whether meds is a good route to go, staving off for now.

And one piece of (unsolicited) advice – keep up the protein intake during last trimester. Good stats on baby IQ as a function of protein during the last three months of gestation. I had a hard time tolerating meat during the last trimester so I ate a lot of yogurt and peanut-butter on apple snacks. The baby grew up to be top of the class in a really big high school. Worked for us!


Comment by Leah.

I sufffered severe PPD with my first pregnancy and was on Prozac for several years. When I got pregnant with my second child my OB recommended I stay on the Prozac through my pregnancy as the stress of my depression coupled with a high-risk pregnancy could harm my child more than the meds. Plus it would help with the PPD I was sure to have since I had it with the first child. I did a lot of research and the positives far outweighed the negatives. Birth defects can happen even if you are uber-healthly and do everything by the book. It is just something that happens.
You have to take care of you first and foremost. If you can’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of your child.


Comment by Baby Security.

I agree that medication is not always the answer as our latest blog post details here. http://www.babysecurity.co.uk/blog/2012/02/10-ways-to-help-your-partner-during-pregnancy/
If there is anything that I think could help. It would be moderate exercise. This is often something that is not thought of during pregnancy and just a gentle, long walk a few times a week can do wonders and keep up serotonin levels. Also, a good diet of healthy foods can help too.


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