Today’s topic was inspired by a post over at Postpartum Progress: You don’t NEED Anti-depressants, Do You?
In this post, Katherine discusses the lack of stigmatization regarding pharmeceutical treatment for medical conditions in response to a ScienceBlogs post you can find here.
Anti-depressants are stigmatized. Period. Nitro-glycerin or insulin? Not so much. Why? Just as Anti-depressants may work for me, they may not work for you. And if you have the wrong heart condition and take nitro-glycerin, things may not go your way either. But you don’t hear people judging others for being on nitro-glycerin, now do you? And insulin? Many Diabetics require this life-saving medication. Even pain medication after an injury – do you question that prescription? Most don’t and certainly aren’t stigmatized for taking it because let’s face it – a broken leg hurts – something we all understand.
Mental illness hurts too. It hurts the person suffering. It hurts the people around them. And if the right medication is paired with the right therapy, it can make a world of difference. Why then, are we stigmatized or accused of not understanding informed consent for deciding (of our own free will) to take medication as we heal? What makes the scaffolding of Anti-depressants any different than pain medication as a broken leg heals?
So I’m posing a pretty big question today. And I expect there will be a bit of debate about it – which is good…our different opinions are what keep us interesting! Just keep things polite. No hateful, judgemental or fear-centered comments will be approved.
Do/did you or don’t/didn’t you take Anti-depressants? Why? Why not?
And more importantly – IS it your place to tell someone else they absolutely SHOULD not take them if you don’t believe in them or have had a bad experience? Or should you calmly refer them to research that explains the risks vs. benefits and let them make the decision on their own WITH a professional on board?
Let’s get to Just Talkin’!
I so hear what you are saying. I remember being in the hospital completely suicidal and terrified I would hurt my baby. I had to ask myself whether at this point was it better for me to breastfeed or to end up killing myself? Even my most militant breastfeeding friends were giving me “permission” to stop so I could take medication.
Thanks to Lauren and Katherine for posting this on your blogs. These issues are regularly coming up in the Atlanta Postpartum Support Group, so are obviously on the minds of women currently struggling with this decision or how they feel about the way their doctors, friends, loved ones, etc. react to antidepressant use. There are so many factors to consider, ones that are very difficult to fully weigh when you are sick. That’s where we need to rely on the true professionals and our loved ones to help us make good decisions. My rule of thumb was, “if I am too sick to make a good decision, then a) I am too sick to get better without the help of a medical intervention such as a pres. med and b) I am too sick to make this decision fully on my own and I need my Doc. (or should I say my EDUCATED doc who SPECIALIZES in PPD- not some GP or OB who knows nothing about PMDs and just throws a pres. for Zoloft my way) to determine what meds and doses are best for me. I was able to go from a nearly suicidal state of constant anxiety and racing thoughts, insomnia, etc. to being able to function, though not nearly recovered, in just a month’s time between Thanksgiving and Christmas 2007, thanks to my meds (as well as the therapy, support of family, sleep, etc.). They are not the right choice for everyone, but I firmly believe in the general rule that moderate to severe PMDs require antidepressants. Why? In my opinion, getting well as fast as possible is what is going to allow you to bond healthily with your baby and eventually get to a place where all of your memories of your child’s infancy are not marred by PPD. Sure, there are women who eventually “recover on their own.” But, was the sacrifice worth it? And, are they truly fully recovered? We’ll never know, but from what I have observed so far, the women who fall into that category are so far behind where they could have been at one year postpartum when they opt out of professional treatment. Generally, they are still riddled with anxiety and other PPD symptoms and are usually feeling “better” because their children have matured, are sleeping better, and they are getting more used to being mothers. I certainly don’t want to sound like a drug pusher, and to clarify, I do not have ANY connection to the pharma industry. It’s just that I truly believe that many moms need their brains to recorrect after the attack they have undergone and that often requires meds to balance the chemical and physiological factors that have gone out of control.
After the birth of my second daughter, I was experiencing many symptoms that suggested I needed help. I was increasingly paranoid and became very obsessive about keeping my children safe. Even so, I didn’t want to go for help because I didn’t want to go on medication. I was judgemental of those who took medication and did not think that I needed any. Instead of getting help, I ended up hospitalized with postpartum psychosis. Before this, I had no history of mental illness. Let me just be one to say that mental illness is very real and it is no one’s place to judge doctors who prescribe pills or patients who take them. If I had been able to look past the stigma, maybe I could have gotten myself help. I hope that my talking about it will help other women to get help who need it. I now take several medications and know that my quality of life is much better because of it. It is an illness, not a weakness.
Oh I can’t stand pill happy doctors.
A GOOD doctor will work with you to discover the underlying cause of the depression – he/she will not just shove pills at you. A GOOD doctor will/should run a thyroid screen, talk with you at length about your symptoms and what social support is or is not available to you, offer therapy, and refer to a psychiatrist for potential pharmaceutical treatment. A GOOD doctor will also respect your wishes if you choose not to take Anti-depressants, offering sound advice and guidance regarding supplements, etc, or providing a referral to a naturopath or homeopathic caregiver if he/she is not familiar with natural approaches.
And YES, these moms need positive support and encouragement no matter what their decision!
It’s really sad that this even has to be a topic. Antidepressants are something that a woman should learn about and make an informed decision about with her healthcare provider. Some women will take them, some women will not. It’s their choice! What I do have a problem with is the doctors who just hand a mom a pill and don’t give them a referral to someone who is truly knowledgeable about PMD’s. There are many, many ways to treat PMD’s and what’s right for one woman will not be what’s right for another. There is no room for judgement when it comes to PMD’s. These moms need support and encouragement no matter what their decision!