The Dark is for Mushrooms, Not for Women

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August 9, 2013 | 6 Comments


  1. I didn’t see the BBC Panorama show (not available in the US) and don’t know if the outrage expressed by the Mumsnet blogger is sincere. It hardly sounds like Dr. Pilling was against using SSRI’s for any woman physically capable of getting pregnant. In any case he didn’t propose to ban anything; he simply thought we deserved to (gasp!) know the facts.

    But I think Neil Gorman is on the right track: if you just talk about the (physical) harms to the fetus and say nothing of the (mainly mental and emotional) harms to the woman, you miss the point. And you hand the microphone to the drug companies to accuse you of discounting women’s concerns, treating us as mere containers whose welfare should take a back seat to even the slightest threat of fetal harm.

    The flip side of course is the HUGE exaggeration of the benefits of these drugs (and the unsupported assertion that depression itself will physically harm the baby). That’s the key to understanding the whole “pre-pregnancy” issue. As a woman, I should absolutely be the one to decide what risks to my future fertility or the health of possible future children are acceptable. But it depends entirely on what the benefits are — and if I’m being force-fed a wildly inflated notion of my own “mental illness and the drugs’ benefit, I am deprived of free choice. Especially once you get me hooked.

    The latest edition of Our Bodies, Ourselves, the pioneering feminist health guide put out by the Boston Women’s Health Collective, took a much different tack on SSRI’s and pregnancy. They did not take the birth-defect issue seriously enough in my view. But on the subject of what are the roots of “prenatal depression” and what can women do about it, I thought they were spot-on and their thoughtful rebellion against Pharma orthodoxy deserves to be publicized and celebrated.

    Just a snip:

    “Too often women experiencing reasonable responses to difficult life situations are treated by health care professionals with mood-altering medications that can have unwanted side effects. These medications—whose popularity is fueled by simplistic and unrealistically optimistic advertising—are often prescribed before women are offered more holistic approaches that have been demonstrated to be equally or more effective.”

    It’s not unlike the example you’ve often shaken your head over, David, of the woman in her late twenties raising 2 or 3 kids alone who wonders why she’s just not interested in sex these days — and the “expert” who wants to test her testosterone levels! Apparently nothing could be all that wrong with our lives and the choices we’re given. No, if we’re unhappy with our lot, we must have a disease … This approach, while pretending to empower women, is actually the most controlling and disempowering I can imagine.

  2. Forgive me for multiple posts – but I’ve done a bit of research on NetMums and I am dumbfounded. I knew “mommy blogs” had become a lucrative industry with worrisome commercial ties that threatened their just-folks sincerity. But I never saw the like of NetMums They are a marketing monster in the UK it seems — there was just a Product of the Year competition juried and sponsored by them along with The Sun, Woman’s Own Magazine and other big-time outlets.

    Funny thing too … GSK won. Not for their Rx drugs of course — for Sensodyne toothpaste. Seems they’ve had “relationships” with Netmums around other consumer brands like Ribena kiddie drinks, etc. Siobhan Freegard, their Czarina, makes Oprah look like just a regular gal speaking her mind … I don’t think there’s a single blog in the US with commercial clout of this sort.

    That being said, I can’t know whether any of the posts by individual women in their chat forum were in any sense “sponsored” material. And my hat is off to Edam, Ragusa and others who had the guts to point out that Big Pharma is not exactly an agent of women’s liberation!

  3. Hi there,
    I’m a Canadian journalist writing a feature article for the women’s magazine Flare about SSRIs/SNRIs and pregnancy. I’d be very interested in speaking with any women who would care to share their experiences either staying on SSRIs/SNRIs during pregnancy, or going off them during/for pregnancy. my website is and my email is Thank you.

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