With my first pregnancy after loss, my grief over losing the boys was still very raw and close to my heart. I still was showing a lot of symptoms of depression, so my doctor kept me on antidepressant medication. In my case, I was prescribed citalopram. With a small dose, I was able to keep on top of things and function throughout the day. But over the course of my pregnancy, and working with my doctor, I weaned myself off it. It may not have been the best idea. For most of the first 9 months of my rainbow daughter’s life, I remained stuck in depression and wasn’t really able to enjoy her. I was so worried that the medication would have a negative effect on her development, I didn’t think much about whether the depression itself might also not be very good for her, or for me.
It turns out I’m not alone in this. A recent study asked pregnant women what they believe about taking medication during pregnancy. The researchers spoke to more than 1000 women in the UK who were either currently pregnant, or had given birth within the past year. They were asked questions about what medications they take and what they believed were the risks associated with taking various medications, including over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen/paracetemol or heartburn remedies.
Three out of every four women reported taking some kind of medication while pregnant, whether over-the-counter or prescription. But roughly the same number of women told the researchers they avoiding taking something while pregnant, most commonly acetaminophen/paracetemol, ibuprofen, cough/cold remedies and, antihistamines. The reason they usually gave was because, like me, they were afraid it would harm their baby, because they believed the medicine could not be taken while pregnant or because they wanted to endure as much pain/suffering as possible before taking medication as a ‘last resort’. More worrisome, some mothers reported not taking medication for conditions like a urinary tract infection, which if left untreated could harm both them and their baby.
As mothers who have lost a child, we are understandably more nervous. Like all mothers, we want what is best for our babies, and we are prepared to sacrifice a lot, including our own comfort, to ensure our baby’s safe arrival. But there are times when medication is necessary, and we should not feel guilt or reluctance to use medication when it is required. As my doctor described it as I asked for an increase in pain medication when sick with my second rainbow, “I think you’ve suffered an awful lot to have this baby safely. There is no need for you to suffer in agony unnecessarily. It is perfectly okay to get help.”
If you have questions or concerns about medication use when pregnant, please, please, please talk to your doctor, midwife or pharmacist. Many medications we take are completely safe and the consequences of not taking them can be severe. We’ve suffered enough to have our rainbows, we need to be kind to ourselves.
To read more about the study, click here.
The full text of the article is: Twigg, M. J., Lupattelli, A., & Nordeng, H. (2016). Women’s beliefs about medication use during their pregnancy: a UK perspective. International Journal of Clinical Pharmacy, 1-9. doi:10.1007/s11096-016-0322-5