Apparently women of “childbearing age” shouldn’t be allowed psych meds…

Philippa wrote a post at The F Word about a “psychiatrist and Professor of women’s health” who has said that women of childbearing age shouldn’t be given antidepressants or antipsychotics in case they accidentally get pregnant. Philippa deftly covers the misogyny ingrained in this, in the concept that a potential foetus is considered to be more important than an adult woman’s mental health for anything from thirty to forty years.

I had a couple more thoughts about this. The first is that it’s pretty heterosexist to assume all women of childbearing age are likely to have sex with men; it completely erases the existence of lesbians and asexual people. Alongside this is the reality that not all women have the capacity to become pregnant (trans women and infertile cis women spring to mind) and many men do.

The second thought I had was “oh gods, another psychiatrist who has absolutely no clue about the safety of psychiatric medication in pregnancy and breastfeeding”. You see, I spent a pregnancy taking antidepressants, with my doctor’s approval. I am currently taking antidepressants and antipsychotics, while trying to conceive, with the complete support of my psychiatrist. If my psychiatrist can see that the benefits to my mental health outweigh the risks to a potential foetus, why can’t this doctor?

Unfortunately I am aware that there are fewer doctors and psychiatrists like mine than I’d like there to be. The majority, unfortunately, are ignorant and uneducated about the safety of various medications in pregnancy – give me a copy of Hale and I’d be more informed than they are! Even many drugs considered “contraindicated” are normally safe, and there are levels of safety to be considered, rather than a simple dichotomy between “safe” and “NEVER safe”. But, not wanting to break the illusion of Doctor/Psychiatrist As All Knowing God Figure, they basically make things up and impose a blanket ban on medications during pregnancy because it would harm their precious egos to admit they’re not sure and then go and look it up.

It’s pretty scary to think that a lot of doctors are going to see this psychiatrist’s report and see that it reinforces their own misguided opinions, and that women’s mental health care might be in jeopardy as a result. It just feels like a huge step back in both the rights of women as human beings, and the rights of the mentally ill to receive treatment for their illnesses. As someone who comes under both categories, I can only hope that more doctors and psychiatrists take the time to admit their ignorance and educate themselves about the real risk factors of psychiatric medications to foetuses.

About Quinn

Twentysomething mentalist, transgender, queer radical feminist parent with disabilities. Open University student and tea addict. Bakes the world's greatest pumpkin bread. Lives with far too many animals.
This entry was posted in breastfeeding, mental health, mothers, pregnancy. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Apparently women of “childbearing age” shouldn’t be allowed psych meds…

  1. Pingback: Apparently women of childbearing age shouldn’t be allowed psych meds… | Shut Up, Sit Down

  2. elfwreck says:

    I thought it was fascinating that her jump from “50% of pregnancies are unplanned” was to “women of childbearing age-and-capacity shouldn’t have psych meds, lest they be part of that 50% and eep eep eep, unexpected influence of psych meds on fetus,” rather than “women of childbearing age-and-capacity should be given a lot of education about pregnancy, childbirth, and contraception options when being prescribed psych meds.”

    After all, we wouldn’t want women thinking that pregnancy can be a CHOICE, rather than something that happens at random and therefore your whole life must be structured around the possibility of a pregnancy just happening.

    Of course, she didn’t mention how many of those 50% of unplanned pregnancies were in various at-risk circumstances, rather than just “well, we weren’t planning on a baby right now/just yet, but we weren’t *not* wanting a baby either, just not planning.” There’s a BIG difference between “unplanned pregnancy” and “unwanted pregnancy.”

  3. Apple Jam says:

    “…it’s pretty heterosexist to assume all women of childbearing age are likely to have sex with men; it completely erases the existence of lesbians and asexual people.”

    It also erases the existence of women who have sex with men in ways that do not include PIV sex. I dread to think how a woman would be expected to prove this is the case so she could get the meds she wanted. She’d probably just not be believed though. Forget oral sex and all the other sexual activities that present absolutely no risk of pregnancy. It seems the medical establishment (and indeed society in general) sees potentially reproductive sexual activity as an inevitable part of sex between women and men.

  4. Apple Jam says:

    The phrasing in my last comment was cissexist. A better way of putting it would be to say that not every sexual relationship between a person with vagina/ovaries/womb and a person with a penis involves PIV sex.

  5. Kath says:

    I can just see myself being asked at the chemist, name, address, type of sexual practice, made me laugh.

  6. Dr Sarah says:

    Anji, was this the article?

    Looking at what Howard’s quoted as saying here, there’s absolutely nothing to indicate that she’s calling for a blanket ban on all antidepressants. What she says is that *drugs that are known to be harmful in pregnancy* should be avoided in all women of childbearing age where possible, but that ultimately you need to weigh up the pros and cons in each case. That’s hardly the misogynistic, extreme view you and Philippa are attributing to her.

    By the way, lesbians and infertile women do end up with unintended pregnancies as well. Rape can result in pregnancy, and not every woman is going to choose to abort. People do occasionally experiment with sexual partners who wouldn’t normally be their gender. Infertility isn’t an absolute – there are women who take many years to conceive and are diagnosed as infertile, but eventually get pregnant. I agree that we shouldn’t assume that anyone is heterosexual, but that’s not the same as dismissing the chance that they could get pregnant.

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