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Pregnancy And Mental Health Concerns

The stigma around mental health continues to improve, and people have been more willing to seek treatment.  However, questions still abound as to what medicine to take, what works well, and it gets even harder for women who are pregnant.  


Sarah Shoemaker, a certified nurse midwife at OSF Healthcare says that you are not alone.  1 in 5 women experiences a mental health concern during pregnancy, and many women are taking medication for things like anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder.  Shoemaker says most of the time, you can and actually should stay on your medication, but have that conversation with your doctor. 


Shoemaker encourages women to not wait until they’re pregnant to talk to their doctor. She says don’t change or stop your medicine routine until you have that talk. While you may have your child’s interest at heart, a change could cause problems.



With that being said, Shoemaker says to not rely solely on your own research. A provider may order one or more ultrasounds before making decisions on medicine.  If a provider says a change is needed, you could go on a supplement.  A medicine like valproic acid may increase the risk of neural tube defects in your unborn child.  Spina bifida is a common neural tube defect and a provider may advise adding a folic acid supplement at a high dose.  For medicine, like valproic acid, drugmakers, and doctors are vocal up front saying, don’t start taking it if you’re trying to get pregnant, that way you don’t have to make a change mid-pregnancy.  


If you are on a new medication that’s new to the market, talk about it with your provider.  According to Shoemaker, scientists typically don’t do intense studies on pregnant women so they don’t disrupt the pregnancy, rather research is done after birth. 



Shoemaker admits that this can be a tough task but there are tried-and-true ways to get to the root of a pregnant woman’s mental health concerns.  Shoemaker says don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions.



Make sure to speak to your primary care physician concerning any mental health concerns. 

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