For those of us who struggle with our mental health every day, the thought of having a baby can be terrifying.
While, for many people, “having a baby” is one of the top things on their lists of what they want to do in life, for those with a mental illness, this isn’t such an easy decision to make. For me, my anxiety has definitely made me doubt if I want to have children because:
- I’m scared that, because of my propensity toward depression, that I’ll suffer from postpartum depression after the baby is born.
- I’m scared of going without my anxiety meds for nine months.
- I’m scared of passing my anxiety on to anyone else.
- When even the most menial things can make me anxious, I’m scared how raising a living human being will affect my anxiety.
I remember during NBC’s popular show “This Is Us,” the character Randall found out his daughter inherited his panic attacks. He said, “When you and I had kids, I couldn’t wait to see what they got from me… Having anxiety and panic attacks is the thing about myself that I like the least.” And, when he said that, I just started crying. Because, wow, I felt that deep in my bones.
If you have these same fears as me, below are some options and answers to the questions and worries you may have — things to consider as you think about what you want for your future:
You can prepare for postpartum depression before you give birth
Just because you have a mental illness doesn’t mean you’ll suffer from postpartum depression, although it may put you at a higher risk. For me, since I know I’m susceptible to postpartum depression, I’ve already done my fair share of research and, if I do decide to have a baby, I plan on seeing a counselor throughout my pregnancy to prepare. Then, if I do struggle with depression during or after pregnancy, it won’t be a surprise. I will be ready for it, and I will be equipped with the tools I need to take care of my mental health.
There are medication options while pregnant
While you may not be able to take some of your normal meds, there is still treatment available while pregnant. According to the CDC, nine out of 10 women take medicine during pregnancy and, in some cases, stopping a medication can be more harmful than continuing to take it. You can visit Mayo Clinic’s website for a list of some antidepressants safe to take while pregnant. For me, I take Celexa and Xanax for my anxiety. According to the Mayo Clinic, certain selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors – like Celexa – are safe for pregnant women. Xanax, on the other hand, is a pregnancy category D drug, which means it can harm your pregnancy, but there are drug alternatives that are safe. So, it’s important to discuss your options with your primary care doctor, OB-GYN and psychiatrist.
Know that you’re not just your mental illness — and your child won’t be either
No matter if you have a mental illness or not, your child won’t be “perfect,” just like you’re not “perfect.” That’s what being human means, and, oftentimes, it’s humans’ imperfections that are my favorite parts of them. So, yes, your baby may inherit your mental illness, or they may not. Your baby may also inherit your migraines or your diabetes or the gap in your teeth or your acne or anything else you may not like about yourself. But your baby will also inherit your many amazing traits, too. That’s the chance all parents take, not knowing how their baby will turn out. But it’s a chance millions of people are willing to take — and I bet they’ll tell you it was all worth it. You’re not just your mental illness; there’s so much more to you, so many traits that any child would be lucky to have.
There’s more than one way to become a parent
Don’t have children
Of course, there’s always the option to not have kids. Having a child isn’t the end-all-be-all. It’s not something you should do because “all my friends are doing it.” It’s a decision you need to make for yourself. Stop listening to your family members who keep pestering you, asking, “When are you having babies?” It’s none of their business! You can live a great, fulfilling, world-changing life without having any children.
Opinions expressed in this blog belong solely to the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or beliefs of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan or its subsidiaries and affiliates.
Photo credit: Courtesy of Monica Drake