The publicity from last week about postpartum depression has really made me think. Saying depression isn’t chemical and telling people to “get over it” are fairly typical makings for a stigma. The other, and even more controversial angle of this, is medication. Not only is psychotropic medication a hot topic anyway, it is particularly so for women who are pregnant and breastfeeding.
Professional And Personal Viewpoint About Medication
I want to clarify that I am not a medical doctor. I am a mental health therapist with experience observing people progress through depression both with and without medication.
I have also endured 3 1/2 years of some form of depression and severe mood swings. I took anti-depressants myself for about two years before and after the birth of my third child. Some of my information comes from a profession viewpoint, and some comes from a personal viewpoint. So if you are ready to dive in with me, let’s go.
Medication Helps But Not Always Necessary
Medication for mental illness is somewhat like a crutch or cast when a person breaks their leg. It can give crucial support and stabilization while the person recovers from the worst of the problem. But when things have been better for a while, other supports are in place, and they have become stronger, medication can be removed in many cases.
For some postpartum depression moms, medication isn’t even necessary. Great support, counseling, exercise, nutrition, and consistent personal care can bring them through the worst of it and back into the light. For women with mild to moderate depression, or depression with a shorter duration, this can really work well.
Medication Is Not Evil – It Is A Tool
Here’s where the controversy lies. Some believe that medication is about “drugging moms” and “blaming their brains” for their problems. This is an unfortunately extreme and alienating viewpoint. Medication can save people’s lives in some cases. This point is too important to miss. There are so many varieties of anti-depressants and other psychotropic medications, women who truly need medication have many options that are compatible for pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Women with dangerous hallucinations should not forgo medication. Women who have had chronic depression aren’t nearly as likely to find enough relief from just support and counseling. At some point, the safety of avoiding medication can be outweighed by the risk of having a mom with chronic lingering depression. A barely functional mother who stays “all natural” with no medication is probably in a lot worse shape than a better functioning mother who makes some modifications because they take medication.
Your Thoughts So Far
I have more to say than I could fit in just one post today. Please return tomorrow to hear the rest of my thoughts on this. And as always, I appreciate any comments you have to share. I also welcome respectful comments from an opposing or questioning viewpoint.
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From Psych Central's website:
PsychCentral (August 24, 2010)
Postpartum Depression - The Question of Medication | Family Mental … (August 25, 2010)
From Psych Central's Erika Krull, MS:
Postpartum Depression - The Question of Medication, Part Two | Family Mental Health (August 25, 2010)
Last reviewed: 24 Aug 2010