Helping pregnant women cope with anxiety

Helping pregnant women cope with anxiety

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Pregnancy can be an anxious time for women. For Carey Lamphier, who was diagnosed as a child with an anxiety disorder, it was especially tough. About 10% of American women take medication for either anxiety or depression. And when they get pregnant, they face a difficult choice: stick with the medication, or taper off it? Carey chose to stick with her medication, and shared her story as a way to help other women trying to make their own decisions.

Carey Lamphier is finally living the story she dreamed of for so long. After four pregnancies, and four miscarriages, Deacon is here, and healthy. He smiles constantly. Lamphier says, “He's very intense sometimes, but very full of joy and life. He laughs a lot, which is really fun, to listen to him laugh at things."

But getting to this point has been a journey. Carey’s psychiatrist, Dr. Toby Goldsmith, says “Carrie had a lot of anxiety." Medication had helped make her anxiety manageable. But, pregnant with Deacon, after so many losses, Carey was haunted by what-ifs? The thoughts would get stuck in her head, she says, “Was everything going to be okay? Was he going to be okay? Was I going to be okay?’ And I think people without anxiety can just bring that thought in their head, and let it go. But when you have anxiety, it just sits there, and it keeps going and going and going."

Carey's obstetrician wanted her to stay on her anti-anxiety medication, referring her to Dr. Goldsmith, who is the Director of the Women's Mental Health Center at Emory. Goldsmith says, “We at the Women's Mental Health Center, we specialize in knowing which medications are safer in pregnancy. And the word is "safer."

"Safer" because all medication comes with the risk of side effects. And pregnancy is tricky. You're not just treating the woman, but her developing baby. And Carey, a pediatric nurse, knows the risks better than most.

She says, "The thing I liked the most is that they didn't tell me what I had to take, they actually gave me all the research, and let me read the articles myself, so that I could really make an informed decision about what really would be best for us."

Carey chose to stay on her medication, and she plans to keep taking it going forward. Dr. Goldsmith says, “Carey’s case is very common. We see women with lots of anxiety disorders, panic disorder, generalize anxiety disorder. Lots of women want to have children. And, unfortunately, lots of women have psychiatric illnesses that need to be treated."

It's a balancing game. Carey says, “I want other women to know that having an anxiety disorder doesn't mean that you can't have a baby, that you can't be a great mom, and you can't be successful at it."

Deacon is now seven months old, and healthy. Carrie says the anxiety is still there. But it no longer controls her life. Watching Deacon in his playchair, she says, “Being a mom, you just can't even, it's the best thing that's ever happened. It's just wonderful."

If you take medication for anxiety or depression and are trying to become pregnant, talk to your physician about your options.


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