I’ve always made the joke that I’m either a very sickly healthy person or a very healthy ill person. Although I often use prescription medication for ulcerative colitis, depression, and epilepsy, I generally feel completely well.
Was it okay to use these drugs while expecting?
Since I rarely experience issues as long as I take my prescription, I don’t spend much time considering these concerns. However, these meds that I had been taking for years suddenly became frightening when I turned 30 and my husband and I wanted to start a family. They were safe to consume while pregnant. Would they harm my baby in the short or long term?
Every Illness Has Its Own Doctor.
For each of these illnesses, I see a specialized physician: a gastroenterologist for ulcerative colitis, a psychiatrist for depression, and a neurologist for epilepsy. Before I began trying to get pregnant, I scheduled appointments to speak with each of them. In addition, I completed some independent research because I work as a researcher. I had such a wide range of experiences with the three doctors.
When my gastroenterologist arrived for the appointment, he started listing the most recent, significant discoveries in the body of scientific literature. On the basis of a recent study, she proposed a small tweak to my prescription and explained how, given my specific pharmaceutical regimen, the risks to my unborn child would be incredibly low. She had clearly given careful consideration to the appropriate course of action for me particularly, and I did not hesitate to accept her recommendation to modify my prescription.
The psychiatrist is next.
My interactions with my psychiatrist were likewise positive. Since I hadn’t had a depressed episode in almost ten years, I was seriously debating stopping my anti-depressant medication. I’ve known this psychiatrist for a long time, and she routinely treats pregnant women who are dealing with postpartum depression and other mental health problems. I think she just told me to sit down and said, “Look, I know you really well, and I’ve seen ladies at this crossroads a million times before. You are using a low-risk antidepressant at a modest dose. Even a small amount of exposure to this medication would be better for your kid than if you were now experiencing a significant depressive episode. I trusted her judgment because she was a psychiatrist as well as a person I knew.
Finally, the neurosurgeon.
My neurologist and I unfortunately did not get along very well. I was quite anxious because the medication I use for epilepsy is the one that would be most dangerous for a child. I attended our visit having read the most recent articles on the connections between several anti-seizure drugs and some rather severe birth abnormalities. She was not familiar with the studies and was quite dismissive of my worries, so I wanted to talk to her in depth about the advantages and disadvantages. Though she didn’t explain her reasoning or even acknowledge that it was a difficult choice, she believed I should continue taking the drug.
I thought every choice I made was incorrect.
After that appointment, the following few weeks were awful for me. Any choice, in my opinion, was incorrect. Maybe I should stop taking the medication since I hadn’t experienced a severe seizure in years? But as soon as I realized that, I would begin to consider what would happen to the baby if I had a seizure while driving or in another circumstance that would put the baby in danger. I would then have a change of heart and opt to continue taking the drug. However, as soon as I thought doing that was the correct thing to do, I would begin to consider how it would all be my responsibility if my child ended up with birth problems.
The entire time, I felt incredibly lonely.
For weeks, I essentially continued in this pattern of making a decision, feeling terrified or guilty, and then changing my mind. The entire time, I felt incredibly lonely. Because they didn’t have significant health difficulties, my friends didn’t have to make decisions like this regarding their pregnancies. My husband, who is incredibly supportive and understanding, told me that while he would fully support any decision I made, he didn’t want to make it for me because it was my body.
I tortured myself for weeks before deciding to continue taking the anti-seizure medicine.
It just seemed like the better option out of two awful ones, but I’m not sure I can really describe why I chose it. But making the choice was such a horrible experience, and I now see that it didn’t have to be that way. Despite feeling alone, I wasn’t. There are resources available to help women make decisions concerning pregnancy and medication, such as the Treating for Two website. It turns out that a huge number of women have to make these decisions.
knowing what I know today.
This event happened three years ago. Now that my son is 2.5 years old, I’m expecting again. This time, everything is completely different. When I started preparing for this pregnancy, I discovered a new neurologist who has been great. We had a long discussion, he heard my worries, we looked over the research, and we ultimately decided together. I don’t feel like I’m carrying around this enormous load that no one can relate to. Next month, I’ll have a daughter. I worry about a lot of things, such as how to care for a toddler and a newborn at the same time, but my medication anxiety does not keep me up at night.
I would suggest the following to other women in similar circumstances:
Recognize that you’re not alone. The Treating for Two website has materials to assist you in making this decision, which many women must make.
Before you begin attempting to conceive, be sure to speak with your healthcare professional. One little adjustment to your prescription or dose may be all that is necessary to significantly reduce the risk, as it was with the drug I was prescribed for my ulcerative colitis.
Inform your doctor of any concerns you have regarding your medicine. Your doctor ought to be open to discussing the benefits and drawbacks of various options with you. If the doctor is unwilling to have that discussion, look for another one.