WebMD published an informative piece last week on why people consider quitting their antidepressants and what they should know before they do so. This is ever so pertinent to moms with postpartum depression and anxiety, many of whom are afraid to take medication for their treatment and who, if they do, want to get off of it as soon as possible.
First, let me make clear that I don’t think every woman with a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder needs to take medication. It is one method of treatment. I do think it’s important, though, to know as much as possible about why you’re taking an antidepressant, what you should expect to happen, whether you need to try something else and how to go off of it properly.
For me, some of the key takeaways of the WebMD piece were:
- “A lot of patients give up before the drug has had time to enact changes in the brain’s chemistry. Side effects are the most common reason for quitting an antidepressant within the first two weeks.” Shame on the doctor who doesn’t discuss potential side effects with you and what you can do to deal with them. Some moms get them, and others don’t, depending on which medication is being taken. Think about which side effects you can deal with for the sake of getting well, and which are deal breakers, and talk about this with your doctor. A different treatment may work better for you.
- “Some patients stop taking antidepressants because they think the drug isn’t working. It may be that their dose just needs to be adjusted …” Ask questions about your dosage. Is your doctor starting you off low, and if so, how does he or she plan to bring you up to the most effective dose? What will that process look like?
- “If you don’t see any improvement after two weeks on an antidepressant, tell your doctor.” Yes! While it does take time for the medication to build up in your system and some patience is required, you don’t need to sit around for 6 months waiting for it to start working and remaining in total misery. If you’re on the recommended dose and your symptoms haven’t improved after a few weeks you’ve got to do yourself the favor of calling and saying “This isn’t working.”
- “Quitting too soon makes it more likely depression symptoms will return.” This happens often to mothers who start feeling better and decide they can stop their treatment on their own. They are quite surprised when the illness returns. Don’t do this. Talk to your doctor first.
Go read the whole article (note: it’s 3 pages) and let me know what you think. Does this help those of you who are considering stopping your antidepressant?
Note: For those of you who say you had to stop your medication because you can’t afford it, you should be aware of the Partnership for Prescription Assistance.