Off My Antidepressants

March 8, 2006

Today is my first day without Effexor–my first day without Effexor in a really long time.

I have been preparing for this day ever since I found out I was pregnant. During my first visit to the obstetrician, he and I decided that it might be best for me to stop taking the antidepressants before the baby was born, so he’s been decreasing my dosage for the last few months. Now the plan is for me to try going without until the baby’s born.

So far, I’ve been all right. I’m a little cranky lately, but it’s a premenstrual kind of fussiness, so I’m guessing that it’s the result of one of those hormonal fluctuations that accompanies the miracle of motherhood. Irritability is an active state of unpleasantness, while depression–for me, anyway–tends to manifest itself as a deadly kind of passivity. I think it helps that the end of my meds coincides with the approach of spring, too: I like light. And I’ve been trying to exercise more now that I’m past the generally exhausted stage of pregnancy, so that should get me some extra endorphins, too.

Deciding to go off the brain drugs was not an easy decision for me to make. I know that there are no data on the long-term effects of antidepressants on the developing fetus, but I also know that depression is scary and bad. I am pretty sure–and my doctor did not contradict me–that it would have been a bad idea to simply stop taking the drugs as soon as I knew I was pregnant. The plan we devised was a compromise, meant to ensure that–at the very least–my baby won’t go through withdrawal after she’s born. My husband is helping by asking me everyday how I’m doing–he does this anyway, but he has instructions to make specific inquiries about my mental wellbeing, since the hopelessness of depression tends to make me disinterested in my own welfare, and I’m afraid that disinterest will extend to my baby’s welfare, too. My husband, my doctor, and I are all prepared for me to resume taking Effexor if my mood takes a dangerous turn. So, we’ll see.

Lately, there has been a lot of new information about antidepressants and prenatal development, and some of it seems contradictory. I think there is an overarching lesson to be learned, though: Sometimes, what’s best for the baby is what’s best for the mother, and what’s best for the mother is different for each mother.