Julie Edgington was pregnant for six weeks before she realized that she just wasn’t comfortable taking Paxil while she was expecting.
“But by then it was too late,” she said.
Edgington said that her son Manny, now 5, had developed a heart defect – almost fatal – that was the direct result of her taking Paxil, part of a class of drugs called SSRI inhibitors. Since he was born, Manny has undergone 6 surgeries, and will have heart problems for the rest of his life.
Edgington is now part of a campaign against a bill recently passed by the House but stalled in the Senate called the Melanie Blocker Stokes Act, or Mothers Act, which calls for increased visibility and treatment of postpartum mental conditions. She says the bill will encourage mothers like her to start on psychiatric medications without being aware of the potentially deadly consequences.
“There is a lot of connection between Paxil, or SSRIs, and heart defects,” she said. “There’s no wording in the bill that says the pills they may give out might cause birth defects.”
The Mothers Act has fanned the flames of the anti-psychiatry movement, particularly as it applies to the administration of psychiatric medications before, during and after pregnancy. Those against the legislation, like Edgington, consist of a legion of doctors and activist mothers, who are opposed by at least an equal number of doctors and activists who say Mothers Act addresses a critical women’s health issue.
“[The bill] is a very simple thing – it’s about funding more research and services so we can do a better job of caring for these women,” said Catherine Stone, a mother who supports the legislation. “The whole idea that this bill advocates a specific treatment or funds a specific treatment – its just not there.”
Stone suffered from postpartum obsessive compulsive disorder after the birth of her son and was prescribed an anti-depressant that she said provided immeasurable support.
“We need to make sure all women have access to the right care,” said Stone.