You have discovered that you are one of the 1 in 5 UK mums affected by maternal mental health, now your being offered medication. But your unsure, maybe your pregnant and are worried the meds will harm baby. Or similarly breastfeeding and not sure if the meds will pass on to baby? Or maybe you are just unsure if the side effects listed on the meds are something you want to deal with?
Lets deal with all these questions here, and if you have any more, feel free to leave a comment. But also speak to your GP about the best treatment for you and the options available.
Then lets see what alternatives, if any, there are available to those of us suffering with maternal mental health issues.
Mental Health Medication In Pregnancy & Breast feeding
In this modern day we much more aware of how things impact us and more natural remedies are becoming more and more popular across all areas of medicine. But right now the western way is still medication and this is the first line the Drs etc will use, rightly or wrongly so. So, are there risks to your unborn baby?
As with any medicine be it for physical or mental health in pregnancy the decision isn’t often straightforward. I mean after all something as everyday as ibuprofen is off limits and have you ever tried to get sinus meds when expecting?
According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists these are some factors you need to consider:
- How unwell you have been in the past
- How quickly you became unwell in the past if/when you stopped taking medication for a mental illness
- Have medications for mental illness caused issues due to side effects in the past that where too much for you?
They do go on to say that in most cases they don’t have enough information to say any medication is 100% safe during pregnancy, but this is not limited to mental health medication.
Anti-psychotic medication is often relied upon most as they help with some of the more sever and difficult illnesses which are extremely hard to manage. The Royal College of Psychiatrists provide a somewhat conflicting response unfortunately, there is no good evidence to say any types of mediation in this range are safe to use in pregnancy. A large study however, did find no increased risk of birth defects in general but did show a small increased risk with a specific drug being Risperidone but even more confusing this risk hasn’t been found in other studies. So they are classing it as an apparent increased risk and saying more research needs to be done.
As for other mental health meds, such as anti depressants etc I’m afraid there is no clear cut answer. It is down to you to make the decision based on your situation, your needs and a weighing up of the risks and benefits. Some people the scale will tip one way and to others another way. So, as always there is no right or wrong answers here. If not taking meds means you will be unable to cope, potentially suicidal etc then these risks may clearly outweigh any risks to baby. It is also good to note here that drugs are not clinically tested on pregnant ladies so it is not always risks that are known, it may be perceived so you can use this argument both for and against taking meds.
Some of the known risks involved and to be aware of when making your decision include:
- Possible birth defects. There is evidence that taking some mental health meds (specifcally those involved in blocking the reuptake of serotonin) early in pregnancy slightly increases the risk of your baby developing heart defects, spina bifida, cleft lip.
- Increased risk of premature birth or miscarriage.
- Withdrawal symptoms in the newborn baby.
- Drugs may be passed to baby via breast milk.
Remember this is not to say, as said above, that you should or shouldn’t take mental health medication. It is a decision based on each individual basis and understandable a difficult one. So please do reach out for support to either your specialised midwife, a family or friend, your GP etc etc. And for more information click here to visit Mind an amazing mental health charity that has lots more info and advice.
Alternatives to medicine
So, although all the above seemed very doom and gloom fear not my friend! There is another way. And more recently alternatives to traditional western medicine is becoming more and more poplar, and that means more accessible. There is a huge wealth of alternative medicines available so I will list those that has specifically helped for me and many others whom I deal with.
For me there has been one (scientifically proven) way that dramatically helps with my mental health. And that is exercise. Now, I know most of us are initially immediately put off by this word, and I feel you! The word it self literally feels like effort. And effort and motivation is something us pregnant, new mums and mental illnesses sufferers don’t have in abundance. But I am going to use the age ole cliche am afraid (hangs head in shame) if I can turn my attitude to exercise around, so can you.
I was never and had never been an exerciser, I hated it! It was a chore I never did except for occasionally taking the stairs if the lift was broken at university. So, when my GP first suggested exercise to me as an alternative to mental health meds, believe me when I say I laughed at him! I said
“yes because that is just what I need right now? Aint I meant to be the crazy one here?”
Now several years later, here I am a fully qualified personal trainer using exercise as my biggest and greatest weapon against my mental illnesses and helping others do the same. Its about taking a total switch up in your mind about what exercise is for and why. One of my top tips for this is a very simple exercise (no pun intended). Try this:
Pick a physical exercise, something as simple as a brisk 20 min walk or swimming or make it fun and do some dancing (and I mean the sort you do when no one is watching !) Now, here’s the task…before you start write down how you feel (mentally not physically!) on a piece of paper, keep it as brief as you can. Then IMMEDIATELY after you have finished your exercise again write down how you feel (mentally not physically remember). Also ask yourself how much you was aware of your mental illness symptoms whilst you was doing the exercise. I guarantee you will see a positive difference you will feel different and you will begin to unleash the power!
Explore my website using the tabs above and the services section to discover more help on exercise for mental health. There is also lots of help on my social media in particular on Wednesdays which is weekly workout Wednesday.
One of my other biggest tools which I use alongside exercise is various forms of mindset work. Basically its about learning new ways to think, imagine your brain is an electrical circuit, its about making new connections, dealing with troublesome connections and deleting connections that are faulty. And I do this using a wide variety of methods.
One of which is keeping a journal. It is such a therapeutic experience, it helps release so much and is one of those you have to try it to believe it moments again. Dispel the old ways you have of thinking of keeping a journal. Or is it that me that thought journals where just something you did as a teen to moan about boys, dream about boys, moan about friends and dream about your fave celeb coming to your school? Well, this is why I have created a totally free challenge designed to help you learn how to keep a journal that will benefit your mental health. You will get an email everyday for 30 days direct to your inbox giving you information and offering you support on your new journalling journey.
You can also be referred to a qualified counsellor or pay for one privately. There is also therapies such as CBT and more available via the NHS. There does tend to be lengthy waiting lists, but this doesn’t mean they are any less effective. Speak to your GP, midwife or Health Visitor and ask them what options there are available in your area.
Combination of mindset work and exercise
How about combing two of my top 2 tips for alternative ways to medicine? I have created what you might call a one stop shop for us. I bring in guest experts and we cover all sorts between us. From essential oil experts, to crystals, crocheting (yes you read right!), the law of attraction and how to use or even do positive thinking, workshops on things like; overthinking, confidence, self esteem, emotional eating. Are all just some of the things you will find in my Stronger Than Your Mind Academy. You can find out more and become a member here.
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