Mental Health + Pregnancy

I’ve been thinking about this post since the first weeks of pregnancy. As anyone who is a long term reader knows I suffer with severe depression, I have for almost ten years now.

When I fell pregnant I was on 250mg Venlafaxine, an anti depressant that is one of the hardest to come off due to the withdrawal symptoms. When I suffered my miscarriage in 2009 I miscarried whilst I was withdrawing from another anti-depressant. Coincidence maybe but it scared the hell out of me. I made an appointment immediately with my GP after trying unsuccessfully to get hold of my psychologist. She looked it up in her little drug book and as there are no known complications to the pregnancy or baby other than the baby possibly getting withdrawal symptons during the neo-natal period we agreed we wouldnt take any drastic actions. After discussing a slow deduction we agreed I’d gradually drop to 150mg over the course of 3 weeks. I managed this quite smoothly and without too many withdrawal symptoms and was very relieved to get through it and down to 150mg and no miscarriage, yes I know there was not a link but in my mind I couldn’t help but fear it.

So since around 8 weeks I’ve been on a dose of 150mg but there is of course a reason why I was on 250mg, because the lower doses did not work for me. So being on 150mg I am finding is like being on nothing. My mind is in overdrive, I’m paranoid about everything, my mood swings are extreme, I’m closing up and not talking about things to those closest to me, I’m a complete insomniac again. Ultimately I am finding it bloody difficult. But at the same time I know what I’m doing is better for the baby.

However at some point I need to reduce to 75mg. If it feels like I’m on nothing now I am dreading what it will feel like when I get onto the 75mg. I’m hoping that we wont start the drop until around 30 weeks. The earliest I will be having a c-section is 36 weeks so I wont have been on a low dose for too long.

The trouble is at the moment I also have no back up support of a counsellor or support worker. My area has recently started a transition to a new system meaning those with conditions which require therapy no longer have a support worker but have access to a wide range of therapies, that is of course when your referral eventually occurs. My support worker discharged me back in November, still I am yet to hear from the new team even with my GP chasing them up. Its hard not having that regular support especially on a lower dose but thankfully my GP is really supportive and I’m able to go and speak to her regularly, but its not easy.

I’ve realised too that potentially after the birth I won’t be able to immediately go back to my normal dose of 250mg if Venlafaxine goes through the breast milk. Which is possibly leaving me with some tough choices. As my consultant and GP keep reminding me ultimately its about weighing up risk to the baby and risk to me. But for me the only thing I am worrying about is the baby.

Has anyone else had any experience of being on anti depressants whilst pregnant/breastfeeding?


9 thoughts on “Mental Health + Pregnancy

  1. Hi Hayley, really interesting post, I hope you get some of the answers you are looking for. Would you like me to link to this on Breaking the Silence and include a snippet for you?

  2. I wish I could be of more use but all I can tell you is I stopped taking my anti depressants and beta blockers when I found out I was pregnant. I suffer from depression and anxiety and it has been a real battle to keep a positive frame of mind without medication especially as my life hasn’t exactly been running smoothly lately. I suffered from really bad PND after my daughter was born and I am worried about it happening again, I have already been told by my GP that I am high risk as I have a natural predisposition to depression. I really want to breastfeed so I may not be able to go back onto my ADs, but then if PND comes back and I can’t cope with it alone I guess it would be better to have a formula fed baby and be able to cope, because no matter how good breastmilk is, if I’m not coping I’m not going to be as good a mum as I’d want to be

    Depression is a horrible illness and it can take away control and choices, which ironically are the two things you need the most when you are ill. I hope you find the answers you are looking for xxx

    1. Thank you hun. I think at the moment I am torn between the fact I am desperate to breastfeed but realise for the sake of my mind and health I may need to bottle feed again. I guess its something I will have to think about more nearer the time but without my medication my mind goes in overdrive and I find myself thinking about it alot lol! Vicious circle! xx

  3. You poor thing! I’m not much use really, except I will say that you being healthy and happy is what the baby will need more than anything else and if that means you putting him or her on a bottle straight away then so be it. I’ll be shot down in flames by the breastfeeding gestapo no doubt but the baby will need you to be able to cope with the demands of motherhood more than he or she will need breast milk, if you aren’t able to function then what use will you be to a little baby and to J who will no doubt be all excited and badgering you for attention too bless him. Do what you feel is best, but just don’t do something because it’s something you feel you should do rather than what is safe for you to do. You’ll be fine! x

  4. Can I just first say I think you are amazing. I know how scared your were about reducing your meds but you have done incredible. I know it’s a daily struggle but you are never alone.

    I remember how quick my PND hit me one moment I was enjoying my new born the next the world was dark so very dark. I would never want to go to that place again.

    Breast feeding is awesome of course but not enough to have to you I’ll. You have to get your head around the fact that the baby will be quite happy on formula while you can be the mom you want to be with the Medication.

    Its not a case of mind over matter we know depression is a chemical imbalance its not something you can just decide you dOnt Want to be depressed anymore no matter what some believe.

    I know my opinion is just that mine but I think a child would benefit more from a happy mom then breast milk.

    There are many mothers who can’t Breast feed due to medication though undertaking chemo etc.


  5. *big hugs* Is there any chance of you changed to a different anti depressant that wouldn’t affect the baby? It might be worth making a double appt with your GP to talk though options like that.
    Otherwise all I can say is that I’m thinking of you and please keep talking to people, anyone, don’t shut down and let it spiral out of control. I know how hard that is but you have to keep people involved, let them help *hugs*

  6. Just wanted to let you know that I was on 300mg Venlafaxine throughout my pregnancy, with a plan to reduce dosages in the last month before my due date, which was scuppered by my developing pre-eclampsia and having to have my son a month early! Anyway, the upshot of that was that I was still on 300mg Venlafaxine when my son was born, and although he did have to spend a couple of days in SCBU, this was mostly as a result of his being early (jaundice, problems regulating his body temperature, etc). He did have a bit of the jitters at a few hours old, which was put down to Venlafaxine withdrawal, but as uncomfortable as this was to watch, it did him no harm at all, and didn’t seem to bother him. The other thing is that breastfeeding whilst on Venlafaxine is actually helpful to baby in these circumstances, because it can help ease their withdrawal by giving them a v low dosage of the medication.

    All of the above was discussed at some length by my Consultant Psychiatrist with the hospital pharmacy, paediatricians, and the teratology department at a local University, and I still have a lot of the paperwork on the research that was done, so if you’d like any more information please don’t hesitate to get in touch – my email address should have been saved with this comment, and I’ll keep an eye out here for any reply, too 🙂

    And one thing that really sticks in my mind, is my Consultant Obstetrician, who said “a pregnancy cannot yield a healthy baby without it having a healthy Mum”, and he is so right!! I know when I’m off my meds I don’t take good care of myself by any stretch of the imagination – my sleep is all over the shop, I don’t eat right, and I don’t get out and about for fresh air or exercise, and all of these things are important when you’re pregnant. Looking after you IS looking after the baby!

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