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R U OK? Maternal Mental Health

In Queensland suicide is the leading cause of death for pregnant mothers & in the 12 months following birth. Let that sink in.

When I made an appointment with a doctor to have my birth control removed to start trying for a family, she saw my health records and said - "I see you're on anti-depressants, we can book another appointment in six months once you've weaned off them". I calmly explained to her that my mental health was under control and that was large in due part to my meds. That a stable and mentally well mother was the best and safest choice for any baby I might carry.

In the room, I felt confident and sure of my words. As soon as I left, I fell apart. I felt as though I'd been told I was unfit for purpose. "Come back when you're fixed". I felt small, insignificant and ashamed.

I'm very lucky that I have a great support system, I called my husband and my sister and they were able to help me see sense. This doctor was misinformed - relying on an incorrect and outdated body of research comparing mothers who didn't require medication, with those who did. The results suggested it was better not to be on meds.

These studies don't compare mothers on meds with mothers who have gone off their medication. To my knowledge, these studies don't exist, because mothers that need meds... stay on their meds and aren't willing to go off them for the purposes of a study. Newer guidelines recommend pregnant women remain on their current medication as there is greater risk in changing, or weaning.

I'm doing well. So is my baby. My current GP is brilliant, and when I told her I was pregnant she said - "Wonderful! You're still on your meds right!?" She was also incredibly supportive when I came to her because after six months of severe sleep deprivation (looking at you Gastroesopgageal Reflux Disease), I wasn't coping. We upped my meds and things became much easier.

R U OK day is a great opportunity to talk to those around you about mental health. We have lots of work to do and it starts with us. So, R U OK?

References: Queensland Health (2015); Grigoriadis (2019)

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