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Should I not have a kid because I have severe depression?


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I am in my 30s and I have had depression my whole life. It is extremely severe. I am currently stable on an anti-depressant and anti-psychotic. My mood swings are horrible and often. I also have very violent obsessive thoughts when I am in a depressive episode and a lot of paranoia to boot.

I would love to become a mom but when I am in a severe depressive episode, which happens often btw, having a kid is the last thing I want.

Are there any women on the site who have had a baby while having a severe mental illness? How difficult is it to fight your illness while raising your baby? Do the meds really help postpartum?

Do you feel your mood is "permanently altered" in some way after having a baby?

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I have three. It was hard, especially being untreated for the first 12 or so years. I tried to keep it pushed down but it would explode every now and then. :( I finally hit rock bottom when I wasn't eating or sleeping and couldn't think straight. I don't recommend doing it that way...stay stable, talk to your doc, you will need a plan. Having a mental illness doesn't immediately rule you out as a mother. There are a lot of shitty mothers out there that don't have a mental illness.

 

Also, you say you are stable but then say you often have depressions. It sounds like there is room for improvement, maybe they can get you more stable and you can talk to the doc about it more?? As far as my mood being permanently altered, no. It was altered already by the time I was a preteen. Having kids is stressful but honestly it was worse having none and being untreated.

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As a psychiatrist, stable with a loving family and partner, she had all the 'right' conditions to have a good pregnancy. Sadly, she became very ill afterwards and committed suicide, killing her baby daughter too.

:( That's terrible.

I wanted to come back and add that no matter how stable you are, the crying and fatigue that comes along with a baby are enough to throw anyone over the edge, esp. those of us with a mental illness. Not everyone gets an easy baby that sleeps a lot.  I had/have a job so getting out of the house and having family if needed, helped me tons. I would have lost my shit a lot sooner if not for that.

Edited by wj74
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I am in my 30s and I have had depression my whole life. It is extremely severe. I am currently stable on an anti-depressant and anti-psychotic. My mood swings are horrible and often. I also have very violent obsessive thoughts when I am in a depressive episode and a lot of paranoia to boot.

 

 

It's hard to know what you mean by severe depression, because to some degree that's subjective. I have had MDD since at least the age of 15, and a good number of my episodes have been severe by my standards, that is, life-altering, life-threatening, and requiring intensive psychiatric treatment. I have not experienced psychosis, so I can't speak to that. I set about having kids when I was 33, about 2 or 3 years after a previous serious, debilitating depression (though I was in no way depression-free during that 3-year time period). But I was 1)stable, 2)in a stable relationship, and 3)had continual psychiatric care firmly in place. I don't think it would have gone nearly as well for me if those three things were not the case, but the fact that they were in place has given me as decent a shot as anyone else for being a good parent. My now 10 and 8-year-olds are smart, kind, and well-adjusted, and I've frequently been told over the years that my kids are among the happiest that people have seen. I say that not to toot my own horn, but to illustrate that it is possible under the right circumstances for someone with MDD to be successful at parenting.

 

I have had depressive episodes since my kids were born and am still struggling to climb out of a particularly tenacious one, but my kids have continued to thrive, in part because I have a spouse who can pick up the slack a bit when I'm unwell. My daughter has shown signs of an anxiety disorder in the past year, but our getting her prompt counseling seems to have knocked it into submission. There's an example where my having depression and anxiety allowed me to recognize it in her and seek treatment for her before things got out of hand.

 

I would suggest that if you are contemplating this you should initiate conversations with your treatment team ASAP (I say ASAP because you are in your 30s, so you don't necessarily have ten years to prepare yourself). You need to think about not just whether you will be able to parent as a depressive, but also pregnancy and post-pregnancy. I elected to stay on Zoloft and BuSpar while pregnant as they were not clearly contraindicated at the time, and I knew I was at huge risk for a depressive episode both while pregnant and postpartum, which would be potentially harmful to both me and the baby. But I made that decision in conjunction with my psychiatrist after much research and lengthy discussions about it. It's worth noting that I had no significant depression or anxiety/panic during my pregnancies, and I did not experience postpartum depression with either pregnancy, but again, I was on meds, and had regular psychotherapy throughout the whole process. Obviously some medications are more clearly dangerous to a fetus than others, so what it takes for you to be stable would factor into the decision. Many people seem to take the position that all meds should absolutely be stopped if you are pregnant, but I think it's more complicated and med-specific than that. Be prepared, though, if you stay on any med while pregnant, that even if your pdoc researches it and signs off on it, many other people, including other doctors, will likely give you little clucks of disapproval about it. So be clear in your head what your rationale is and what the risks are.

 

Again, if parenthood is what you want I would discuss this as a goal with your treatment team, so that you can begin to get your ducks in a row if this is something that seems achievable. Ultimately, though, you are the only one who can make the decision as to whether to have kids based on your own insight into your stability and whether you will have the medical and emotional support you need to be safe and successful.

 

ETA: I'm not suggesting that being a parent with MI is easy, because it's not. There are definitely things I would do differently if I could, and things I don't do well at at all. There are also challenges that a normie parent might not have, and other challenges that are difficult for anyone who is a parent.

Edited by Unstrung Harp
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I had MDD when I got pregnant.  Unfortunately, I was depressed during most of my pregnancy.  Once I had my son, I had five beautiful days of bonding with my son and then WHAM, I got hit with depression, psychosis, and anxiety.  Luckily my husband had taken FMLA and was at home with me for the first three months.  I wouldn't have made it without him.  And that is something I would suggest for you--have people lined up to help you care for the baby during the first few months b/c they are rather brutal.  I ended up with a new dx: pregnancy-induced bipolar disorder II.  I didn't treat it either b/c I breastfed for 9 months.  That's something else that you should think about; whether or not you want to breast feed b/c that will determine what meds you can take.

 

I decided not to have a second child b/c of what happened during and after my first pregnancy. 

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Here is my experience as a mom with MI.

 

I'm bipolar and have 2 kids.  I did not realize I had an MI when I had the first one.  Then I was on meds for what the doc said was post partum depression.  Stayed on meds during the pregnancy for my 2nd child.  Went off meds for some reason after a couple years.  Moods swung widely, but mostly with soul crushing depression.  Came out as irritability.  I remember the day I got irritated with my oldest and he got this angry, resigned look on his face, like "here she goes again".  Broke my heart.  I started having suicidal ideation, which scared me enough to get to pdoc where I was properly dx'd and properly medicated.  Things have been much better after that.  

 

I felt like a shitty parent for a long time.  I worried for a while that I had completely warped my kids, because we had significant behavior issues.  Come to find out, both kids are ADHD, and the oldest has either bipolar or is on the autism spectrum (still in testing phase).  So some of the behavior issues were going to be there anyway.  They are very sensitive to yelling, because I yelled a lot when I was irritable.  That hurts me.  But otherwise, they seem pretty well adjusted.  I guess for me, I feel bad for the irritability, which I could have controlled had I received appropriate care sooner, and for them having to have inherited brain cooties, which I could not control.  (Many members of my family and DH are ADHD - they were doomed there.)  If S1 is bipolar, I feel like that's on me.  If it's autism, that's an outlier - he's the first in our family if he has that.  

 

Had I known about my issues before having kids, honestly, I would have still had them in the end, but it would have made me think hard about it. I would have taken proper care of myself.  And I probably would have been more aware earlier on of their own issues, and would not have spent as many years just thinking I was a bad mom.   I think it's great that you are concerned because then you can prepare.  I wish I had been more prepared.  As it is, I have a loving, supportive husband, and appropriate health care now, so things are much better than they were.  

 

Edited to add that I now feel like I'm a good mom.  I am my kids' biggest champion and advocate.  I feel like I have good insight, having some idea of what they are going through.  I am much less irritable and much more compassionate.  It took me a while to get there, but I honestly feel now that I am doing a good job - some days even a great job.  I love my kids, and feel very blessed and honored to have them.  

 

Anyway, that's my story.  

Edited by Odetta
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I've had struggles with mental illness since I was 14/15 (though I was diagnosed with ADHD in first grade or so) but went untreated until shortly after I had my son. The post-partum depression hit me hard and I ended up on an AD, but when I admitted that it had stopped working and it was increased, the bipolar stuff came out. I'd had highs and lows since high school but thing were let go. I would not have done anything different when it comes to having my son but even though I want another baby (I'm 29), I know it's probably not a good idea. I'm not telling you to not have children due to MI, I'm just telling my story. My son is 9, 10 this year, and has recently had a full psych eval due to a bout with extreme anxiety. He's now on sertraline and doing well. My parents wouldn't medicate me but I didn't hesitate to medicate him. I give myself relief from anxiety and sza symptoms via therapy and medication, why shouldn't he have the same relief?

 

The decision to have children ultimately up to you, I personally have just kept an eye on kiddo to monitor for any symptoms that may pop up that need addressing because I know that the longer you let it go, the worse it can be. Education is key and if you know that post-partum depression can happen and are proactive in getting help, and keeping a eye on your depression symptoms during pregnancy, why not? I have a friend who has sza and she just went unmedicated for 9 months and had her baby the other day. She's already headed back to medication and therapy but she was able to go through the pregnancy unmedicated. Not everyone can do that, some meds are bad for pregnancy, and others are "more ok" but it comes down to benefits being more than the potential side effects.

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 I have a friend who has sza and she just went unmedicated for 9 months and had her baby the other day. She's already headed back to medication and therapy but she was able to go through the pregnancy unmedicated. Not everyone can do that, some meds are bad for pregnancy, and others are "more ok" but it comes down to benefits being more than the potential side effects.

yes. My pdoc's position was that I mattered too, and that because of the meds I was taking, the potential benefits to me and the babies, i.e. my not going nuts and white knuckling it through the pregnancies, justified the potential risks. Because it is also not generally risk-free for many of us to go unmedicated for that long. I don't know how I would have played it if I'd had a less supportive pdoc, however.

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