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Woman's suicide attempt stokes warnings about stopping mental health meds during pregnancy

By Sophia Blankmeyer | March 3, 2017 

In the wake of a suicide attempt by a woman who stopped taking medication for her bipolar disorder when she became pregnant, police and psychologists in Northern Utah are warning against the arbitrary discontinuation of psychotropic medications.

Logan police officers arrived at the home of the 21-year-old woman Tuesday morning after receiving tips from her boyfriend and mother.

“They had to kick down the door,” said Capt. Tyson Budge.

When the officers arrived they noticed an empty pill bottle and razor by her bed. The 16-weeks-pregnant woman told officers she had sought to overdose on

Celexa, an antidepressant, because she did not want to deal with life anymore. 

While women may have valid concerns about taking prescription medications during pregnancy, psychologists say shifts away of such medications should only be made in consultation with a doctor.

The emotional turbulence of pregnancy can be a particularly challenging time for people dealing with mental health challenges, said David Bush, a licensed psychologist for Utah State University.

“An unwanted pregnancy,” Bush said, “could be devastating — and even a planned pregnancy would be exceptionally challenging.”

“That is where suicidal behavior kicks in,” Bush said, noting that its easy for pregnant women to go “from feeling at the top of the world to the bottom of the world.”

And if those women have access to prescribed medications, Bush said, “they have a lethal means of attempting suicide.”

About 20 percent of women suffer from mood or anxiety disorders during pregnancy, according to the

Center for Women’s Mental Health at Massachusetts General Hospital, and women with histories of psychiatric illness can be particularly vulnerable. In one study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2006, two-thirds of women who discontinued antidepressant medication during pregnancy suffered a relapse of their underlying mental health issues.