What You Need to Know About Anti-Depressants in Pregnancy
The most important thing I'd want you to take away from this blog is that YOU CAN take certain anti-depressants if you are trying for a baby, pregnant, or breastfeeding. If you have been advised that you cannot take anti-depressants because you are pregnant or breastfeeding, this is incorrect.
The most common anti-depressant that is prescribed during this time period is Sertraline, which can help ease symptoms associated with anxiety and depression. There may be a small risk of things like short-term withdrawal symptoms in your baby when they are born, however, untreated depression has been linked to differences in children's learning and behaviour. Therefore, it is important to weigh up the pros and cons of taking anti-depressants, versus not taking it.
The danger of being told to come off your anti-depressants straight away (which unfortunately still happens), is that you are at an extremely high risk of a relapse in your mental state. My advice would always be to speak to a Healthcare Professional that has had training in Perinatal Mental Health, so they are aware with the most recent recommendations and guidelines and can advise you accordingly.
Are Anti-Depressants Right for You?
As your therapist, I will always recommend the best treatment based on the most up-to-date research. Currently this is a combination of psychological treatment and medication if your symptoms are becoming hard to manage. So, what can you expect if you’re offered a prescription?
Many people report that using medication can take the edge off their symptoms. It can help them function day-to-day, it can help them sleep better or rationalise their negative thoughts more effectively. It can also mean they have the headspace to benefit therapeutically from the psychological treatment they’re receiving. In other words, medication can help people feel better quicker.
The downside is that individuals can and do experience side effects. Some can be managed and eventually pass, others do not. Sometimes people need to try different types of medication to figure out which one is right for them. The recommended anti-depressant that is prescribed if you are pregnant or breastfeeding is Sertraline, although I have worked with mothers who have also taken medications such as Citalopram and Fluoxetine, in the pregnancy/postnatal period. You can discuss with your midwife/GP and what risks you need to consider before making the decision. It is worth remembering that many birthing people can and do take medication during their pregnancy and whilst breastfeeding.
If you are considering starting medication to treat symptoms or anxiety and/or depression, the first port of call should be your GP/midwife/health visitor. You can tell them what symptoms you’re experiencing and what impact those symptoms are having on your life. You can also let them know whether you are trying for a baby, currently pregnant or breastfeeding, so that can be taken into consideration. Your Healthcare Professional can then let you know whether they feel medication could help and suggest an appropriate course of action based on the symptoms you present with.
I hope this blog helps you challenge any biases you may have about taking medication for the treatment of anxiety and low mood in pregnancy and postnatally. There is no shame in needing that prescription. Do whatever works for you.