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friend told her about UCLA's program, but she hesitated for several
months because she was afraid to be evaluated by a psychiatrist
and also believed that antidepressants were overused in our society.
When the bad thoughts continued, Wilson finally relented. Her treatment
included an antidepressant as well as participation in the support
it took a few months for doctors to determine the right dose of
medication, Wilson gradually began to recover. "When I started feeling
some joy back in my life, then I knew it was working," she says.
"I began to feel like my old self again."
who need antidepressants but still want to breast-feed may worry
about the effects of the medication on their infants. This and similar
issues are being examined at the UCLA Pregnancy and Postpartum Mood
Disorders Program which, in conjunction with the Women's Life Center,
helps women facing emotional problems associated with childbearing.
The program encompasses several research studies, including one
looking at the level of medication present in babies whose mothers
took antidepressants during pregnancy, while breast-feeding, or
Hendrick M.D. '90, assistant professor of psychiatry and director
of the Mood Disorders Program, is exploring not only the amount
of antidepressant medication that gets into babies' systems, but
its consequences, if any. The five-year study, which began in 1997,
has so far shown only extremely low levels, with no adverse effects.
The research includes testing the mental and motor development of
the babies when they reach 18 months old as a way of detecting longer-term
effects. So far, test scores have been the same as those for babies
who weren't exposed to antidepressant medications. Hendrick hopes
to extend the study another five years to monitor the children for
an even longer period. She is still accepting study participants.
studies at the Mood Disorders Program are looking at the prevalence
of depression in pregnancy, the effects of stress during pregnancy
and the benefits of estrogen in treating PPD.
my case, I chose to breast-feed my son while taking antidepressants,
so I'm relieved by the research confirming the safety of that decision.
It's been close to a year since I first sought treatment at UCLA,
and I look back on that bleak time with a combination of wonder
and disbelief. I truly feel like I've been given my life back. Best
of all, PPD no longer dampens my love for my son, Steven. Now almost
14 months old, he is a source of constant delight.
wish I had been educated about PPD when I was pregnant so I would
have known to seek help sooner. Expectant parents must be made aware
that PPD is more common - and more easily treated - than they might
Sokoler Steiner is a writer in Los Angeles. To make an appointment
with the Women's Life Center or the UCLA Pregnancy and Postpartum
Mood Disorders Program, call (310) 825-9989.