Early in my last pregnancy, just as I reached the end of my first trimester, I was diagnosed with prenatal depression. At that point, I had heard plenty about postpartum depression. I had dealt with depression and anxiety after the births of my first two children, but I didn’t know anything about prenatal depression. All I knew was that I didn’t feel like myself. I was spending a lot of time in bed. I was feel discouraged about the future and afraid I wasn’t capable of being a mom to three. There was a lot going on in my life, and I was having trouble coping.
To be perfectly honest, when my OB prescribed me a low dose antidepressant, I had so many reservations. In fact, I didn’t fill my prescription for over a month because I was afraid of the side effects. I was worried about the impact taking anti-depressants might have on my unborn child.
Eventually, as my depression began to worsen and I began to struggle with keeping up with my day-to-day tasks as a mom of two and a freelancer, my doctor urged me to give it a try. She talked to me in detail about side effects, assured me that in my second trimester, the risks for my child were minimal. I started taking my anti-depressants faithfully and the fog of depression lifted. I was starting to feel like myself again.
When I first started my antidepressant, I knew I had to weigh the risks. I read plenty about how maternal depression holds some risks for healthy behavioral and cognitive development for infants. I also read that mothers with depression are likely to be less engaged with their babies and how that can affect their relationship.
Personally, I felt that these risks were enough to convince me to take my doctor’s advice and start taking medication for my depression but it didn’t erase my concerns about the side effects the medication may have on my child. Even now, as I watch my 7 month old play on the flood, I worry if there is something I am not seeing yet. What if I made a mistake taking medication during my pregnancy?
I’m sure many expecting moms have experienced the same concerns, wondering if they should just try to survive the depression instead of taking medication during their pregnancy.
That’s why a new study by the Women’s College Hospital is such good news for women like me. In this study, they took a careful look at 35,906 births in hopes of determining if a link exists between antidepressant use in early pregnancy and childhood autism spectrum disorder. Out of this large group of births, 2837 pregnancy were women who took antidepressants early in their pregnancy.
The results of their analysis revealed that it is unlikely that children exposed to antidepressants during their first trimester of development are at a greater risk for developing autism spectrum disorder.
Treatment may not be the same for you as it was for me, but if you’ve been putting off talking to your doctor about your depression, consider this your official permission to start a conversation. Wanting to birth a baby without developmental delays or special needs is understandable, but we shouldn’t forget that babies need healthy mothers, too.