Every woman wants to be as healthy as possible during pregnancy. We give up alcohol, take up prenatal yoga, remember our vitamins, and try to get enough sleep. We also stop taking most over-the-counter medications, as well as many prescription drugs. For people with chronic health concerns, this can be an incredibly fraught decision. We’re asked to decide: Do we continue with this treatment, even if we aren’t sure what it will do to our fetuses? When I realized I was pregnant, I had to grapple with these decisions. But ultimately, I decided to stay on antidepressants during pregnancy, and I don’t regret it.
I’ve come to terms with the fact that my anxiety and panic attacks are a chronic illness. When they started hitting me out of nowhere when I was 23, I’d hoped that it was a one-time fluke, an odd switch in brain chemistry. After a year of therapy, six months of antidepressants, and the occasional anti-anxiety pill, I thought that I was cured. I was back to my “normal” self. So I weaned myself off of antidepressants, because I knew I wanted to try to conceive. I thought I was making the healthiest decisions I could for a baby who didn’t even exist yet.
My first pregnancy was a breeze. I felt really great, both mentally and emotionally. Again, I assumed I was cured. But when postpartum anxiety swept in with a vengeance, I knew I had to get more help. It was so devastating. I’d already been through this, and now I had all new worries and fears because I wasn’t just taking care of me; I was also responsible for a child.
My lowest moment came when I saw a psychiatrist for the first time. I had an HMO and I didn’t have any choice about who to see. The psychiatrist was cold and no-nonsense. She told me that I’d probably have these issues for life. I’d probably need to be on antidepressants for life. At this point, my son was 1 year old. He’d just celebrated his first birthday. I had been suffering in earnest for months, and I was desperate for the help. When I asked about breastfeeding, the…
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