Antidepressants and pregnancy: My experience so far…

When it became apparent to me that I was suffering with antenatal depression, I spent a lot of time reading blog posts about others who had been in a similar situation. Reading those posts was what gave me the courage to walk into my midwife appointment and tell her everything I had been feeling. However, what I found frustrating was that nobody really talked about what happened AFTER they’d been to see their midwife/GP. Did they take medication? Did it help? Did they opt for some kind of talk therapy? Did that help?

I, of course, don’t expect anyone to have to write about such personal details for the whole world to read. But I was desperate to know what worked for people and what didn’t. Which is why I thought I’d write a bit of an update post for anyone who is the same same boat as me.

A little bit of background information:

I suffered with depression in my late teens/early twenties due to stressful family situations and although I was eventually prescribed antidepressants, I gave up on them in less than a week because I was scared they were going to turn me into some sort of emotionless robot. I taught myself CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) and through using the tools I learned, managed to find my way out of a deep, dark hole and become ‘happy Jenna’ again.

In February, I found out I was expecting another baby (after having a second miscarriage back in November 2015) and was cautiously excited to be growing a new member of our family. I had a much easier first trimester than I did with my daughter, only being sick a handful of times in the first 3 months, as opposed to every single day. Other being tired – I felt well, both in body and mind.

Unfortunately, shortly after reaching my second trimester things started to go downhill and I knew from past experience that I was almost certainly suffering with depression. I was crying every day and had stopped enjoying life. I was no longer looking forward to having another baby, and instead, dreading it. I felt like a terrible mum to my two-year-old because I, quite honestly, was hating spending all day, every day with her.

The cause of my depression is very much situational. I live hours away from my friends and family and I miss them all terribly. The isolation and loneliness of being a stay-at-home mum, in a town so far away from my loved ones, for over two years had finally taken it’s toll on me. Add to that, all the raging hormones and emotions that come along with pregnancy and I was broken.

At my 25 week midwife appointment, I broke down in tears and explained that I thought I was suffering with antenatal depression. I instantly felt better for having it ‘out there’ and that conversation has lead to me being where I am today. I booked an appointment to see a GP – who was wonderfully supportive and offered to help me in which ever way I saw fit. I asked for medication.

Type of medication and dosage:

My doctor prescribed me Sertraline as it is safe to use during pregnancy (and breastfeeding).

Sertraline is an antidepressant in a group of drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Sertraline affects chemicals in the brain that may become unbalanced and cause depression, panic, anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive symptoms.” – Source.

The standard daily dose of this medication is 50mg, which is the amount I’ve been prescribed. However, my doctor explained to me that because I’m pregnant, my body will break down the drug a lot faster, meaning I’m only really having half the dose. I was told that if I felt it wasn’t enough then I should let her know and she would up the amount. At this moment in time, I don’t feel the need to do so.

The side effects: 

My doctor warned me that for the first couple of weeks of taking this medication, it may make my anxiety worse. She told me that if this did happen, to continue taking antidepressants and plough on through it because it wouldn’t last. Fortunately, I didn’t experience heightened anxiety but I thought it might be worth mentioning it in this post as I got the impression that not everybody gets this warning from their GP when they start taking Sertraline.

For me, it’s been hard to tell if some of my ‘side effects’ are a direct result of Sertraline or whether they are normal pregnancy symptoms – or a mix of both.

In the first week or so of taking the drugs I experienced dizziness and heart palpitations (at the same time). As you can imagine, this was quite unpleasant, and I remember being sat in a restaurant with my husband, my heart racing and the room spinning, but feeling unable to talk. But, it passed quickly and I’ve haven’t experienced anything like that again for several weeks now.

I also had (and still get) hot flushes several times a day. I can safely say I am not looking forward to the menopause!

The side-effect that I’ve suffered with the most, and still continue to do so 6 weeks into my treatment, is the night sweats. These are very much like the night sweats I experienced in the weeks after giving birth to my daughter, when my body was expelling all the excess fluid I had left over from pregnancy.

Every night I wake up absolutely drenched in sweat – my duvet and sheets are sopping wet. It’s pretty grim and makes me feel disgusting. My bedsheets had never the inside of a washing machine quite so much as they have over the last month or so.

How is my mood now?

Better, so much better. I haven’t cried since I first walked into the doctor’s office 6 weeks ago. I haven’t become an ’emotionless robot’. I have days when I feel grumpy and fed up, just like anyone else would but the difference is that my moods are now on a much more even kilter. I’m finally starting to embrace pregnancy and look forward to having another baby. I feel like I’m a much better mummy to my daughter because we play and laugh together. I’m more inclined to take her out to the park or playgroups whereas before my depression and anxiety would stop me from doing so.

I still wonder how on earth I’m going to cope with two children but I think that’s normal, isn’t it? I know it’s going to be a big adjustment but I will cope.

I should also mention that since I’ve started taking antidepressants we’ve had some quite big news which will have also affected my outlook on life. My husband’s job role will be changing in the next few months which means we will be able to relocate back to Bristol in the New Year. It still seems like a long way off but it’s given me a ‘light at the end of the tunnel’. In all honesty, I don’t think the antidepressants are 100% responsible for my change in mental attitude but they’ve certainly helped. I do not regret starting medication and I will continue to use it for as long as I feel I need to. I suspect once we’ve moved house and I have my support network of family and friends back, I will feel ready to stop my prescription.

If anybody reading this wants to talk about this topic further then do feel free to send me an e-mail or tweet me @_tinyfootsteps. 

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This post was originally published on the 29th September 2016.

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Comments

  1. Avatar September 30, 2016 / 3:08 pm

    You are so brilliant you know that? Well done for knowing when to ask for help, I know I wouldn’t be so brave. So glad you are feeling brighter and I am so so thrilled for you about your relocation- hopefully time will fly by and you’ll be home before you know it! xxx

    • Jenna October 3, 2016 / 2:57 pm

      Thanks so much, Katy – my outlook is so much brighter since knowing for sure that we’ll be moving next year. xx

  2. Avatar October 17, 2016 / 8:16 pm

    I’m glad you got the help you needed – good for you and I hope that you continue to enjoy your pregnancy and new baby xx

    • Jenna October 18, 2016 / 11:19 am

      Thanks so much, Jess. I’m glad that I sought help when I did. Feeling ready to meet my little person now. :) xx

  3. Avatar December 9, 2016 / 11:13 am

    Well done you for getting help. I think it takes an awful lot to admit you need help, and this post is really informative.

    • Jenna December 10, 2016 / 7:54 pm

      Thanks Rachel – I really hope my experience will encourage others to get the help they need too. x

  4. Avatar
    Emma
    December 10, 2016 / 3:38 pm

    Bless you Jenna, look how fab you’re doing now! :) XX
    Glossy Boutique

    • Jenna December 10, 2016 / 7:49 pm

      Ah thank you, Emma. xx

  5. Avatar December 11, 2016 / 5:53 am

    Jenna, this is such an amazing post you should be so proud of yourself. I’ve had 2 or 3 times in my life where I thought I needed some help as I felt I wasn’t coping and always hated using the word depression. Realising you need help and support is such a hurdle to overcome for some and it’s great you were able to feel comfortable enough to speak up about your feelings and like you say, even though how you’re feeling isn’t 100% down to the medication, I’m so glad things are looking better for you and you’re feeling better in yourself :) <3

    Love you! x

    • Jenna December 11, 2016 / 10:42 pm

      It’s such a horrible feeling, isn’t it? To feel so low and like you can’t cope. It was very hard to admit I was struggling but I knew, for my children’s sake, I needed to get help sooner rather than later. xx

    • Jenna December 11, 2016 / 10:40 pm

      Thanks so much, Emily. xx

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