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.