Anti-depressants and pregnancy are a touchy issue. For those women who are debilitated by depression and need to protect their own health, remaining on anti-depressants while pregnant can be a bit of a Catch-22. But while the decision is one that is probably best left between a woman and her personal doctor, one professor says that no menstruating lady should be handed the prescription. According to her, all ladies are potential baby-makers, and didn’t you know that the possible fruits of your uterus come before trivial things like your own mental health?
The Telegraph reports that Professor Louise Howard asserts that no woman with a fertile womb should be able to take antidepressants because of the serious side effects for their hypothetical unborn children, especially considering unintended pregnancies are so high:
“If drugs are contraindicated during pregnancy then it is best that they are avoided in women of reproductive age in general – because 50pc of pregnancies are unplanned.
“That’s just life, we know women will get pregnant when they haven’t intended to, so it’s important to avoid particular drugs.”
Professor Howard is reportedly the head –the head! — of women’s mental health at the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London. Obviously, if you’re planning to get pregnant or looking down the road at a pregnancy, considering the risks of certain drugs like sodium valproate, (a mood stabilizer for bipolar patients), is in order given that the substance can cause fetal malformations and even lead to a low child IQ. Professor Howard advocates this too when she says:
“Before you get pregnant you actually need to have these discussions because ideally one doesn’t want to expose a foetus in that first six to eight weeks before a woman even knows she’s pregnant. If you are thinking about what medication you should be on when you’re trying to get pregnant, or whether you should have a trial off it, the best time to have those discussions is before the woman actually gets pregnant.”
She also maintains that the risk to the baby isn’t all that’s at stake. If you don’t need the potent meds, perhaps you shouldn’t use them anyway:
“The thing to weigh up is the risks and benefits of drugs – it’s not just a matter of thinking about the risks to the foetus but it is also about the risks of not treating because of the impact of the illness. Obviously, if you don’t have to use medication we’d rather not – it’s sensible not to expose a foetus to medication if you don’t need to. For mild to moderate illnesses, psychological therapies are available and they would be first line. But for more severe illnesses or if there is a history of a severe illness they often will want to be thinking about medication. It’s a matter of weighing up her illness risks with the risks of the medication and also what her values are.”
Nevertheless, lumping all women by virtue of their reproductive organs in with the “I may be thinking about getting pregnant” crowd is a very dangerous jump when understanding — and of course legislating –women’s health. Limiting women’s healthcare options based on hypothetical babymaking is quite the slippery slope to an array of potentially harmful notions about how women should be treated by doctors and the entire medical profession, not to mention incredibly offensive and reductive.
Childless by choice or child-free women certainly don’t want their anti-depressants taken into question simply because they have all the biological makings for motherhood. Nor do mothers who have drawn a line in that reproductive sand and taken active steps to control their fertility.
Women being assessed as just walking uteruses is a consistent script for many demeaning efforts in the doctor’s office. It’s also usually a prelude to a whole lot of crazy.