What to do if you're scared of having a child because of your mental illness

When many people imagine their futures, "having a baby" is one of the top things on their lists of what they want to do in life. But, for people with a mental illness, "to have a baby or not to have a baby, that is the question" isn't such an easy decision to make. For me, my anxiety has definitely made me doubt if I ever want to have children because:

1. I'm scared of passing my anxiety on to anyone else.
2. I'm scared of going without my anxiety meds for nine months. 
3. I'm scared that, because of my propensity toward depression, that I'll suffer from postpartum depression after the baby is born.
4. When even the most menial things can make me anxious, I'm scared how raising a living human being will affect my anxiety. 

During season 4 of "This is Us," the character Randall found out his daughter inherited his panic attacks. He said, "When you and I had kids, I couldn't wait to see what they got from me... Having anxiety and panic attacks is the thing about myself that I like the least." And, when he said that, I just started crying. Because, wow, I felt that deep in my bones.

If you have these same fears as me, below are some options and answers to the questions and worries you may have — things to consider before you decide to either start trying to have a baby or swear off pregnancy altogether:

Know that you're not just your mental illness — and your child won't be either: No matter if you have a mental illness or not, your child won't be "perfect," just like you're not "perfect," because that's what being human means. And I personally wouldn't want to live in a world where you can make a designer baby, picking out the exact traits you want it to have. That's creepy. And, oftentimes, it's humans' imperfections that are my favorite parts of them. So, yes, your baby may inherit your mental illness, or he/she may not. Your baby may inherit your migraines or your diabetes or the gap in your teeth or your acne or anything else you may not like about yourself. But your baby will also inherit your many amazing traits, too.  That's the chance all parents take, not knowing how their baby will turn out. But it's a chance millions of people are willing to take — and I bet they'll tell you it was all worth it. You're not just your mental illness; there's so much more to you, so many traits that any child would be lucky to have. 

There are medication options while pregnant: While you may not be able to take some of your normal meds, there is still treatment available while pregnant. Discuss your options with your therapist, physician and OB-GYN. According to the CDC, nine out of 10 women take medicine during pregnancy and, in some cases, stopping a medication can be more harmful than continuing to take it. You can visit Mayo Clinic's website for a list of some antidepressants safe to take while pregnant. Most studies show that SSRIs aren't associated with birth defects.

You can prepare for postpartum depression before you give birth: Just because you have a mental illness doesn't mean you'll suffer from postpartum depression, although it may put you at a higher risk. But, if you know there's a possibility, then you can prepare for it.  Healthline writer Hattie Gladwell, who has bipolar disorder, said, "Learning more about the condition before I’m diagnosed with it — if I’m diagnosed with it — means that I have time to come to terms with it. ... I feel if I had experienced it without warning, I may have been in denial, worried that if I opened up about what I was experiencing, I’d be seen as a bad mother or a risk to my child. But knowing that postpartum depression affects between 13 and 19 percent of mothers helps me realize that this isn’t true. That I’m not alone. That other people go through it too and they’re not bad mothers."

Adopt: I am a big proponent of adoption. If you don't want to bring a child into the world or you can't have a baby of your own, there are so many children out there who already exist who are in need of a family to love and care for them. For local adoption resources, visit Michigan Adoption Resource Exchange or the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services' website

Don't have children: Of course, there's always the option to not have kids. Having a child isn't the end-all-be-all. It's not something you should do because "all my friends are doing it." It's a decision you need to make for yourself. Humans have so much more purpose than just to procreate. Stop listening to your family members who keep pestering you, asking, "When are you having babies?" It's none of their business! You can live a great, fulfilling, world-changing life without having any children. 

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