Any post about pregnancy pulls in more than the average amount of complexity. We had a series of posts on the risks of antidepressants in pregnancy at the end of last year The Dark is for Mushrooms, not for Women and Preventing Precaution and Mumsnet and a string of posts from Adam Urato – see Massacre of the Innocents – with another point of view from Philippa Willits’ I’m not Pre-Pregnant, I just have a Womb.
In a wonderful recent book, The Madness of Modern Parenting, Zoe Williams drives a path through the minefield. See here for a preview. Williams tackles the scaremongering that encourages women not to sit on recently varnished furniture when pregnant and all but forces women to breast-feed.
This is a difficult background against which to say that antidepressants are risky for everyone but in particular for women who are thinking about becoming pregnant. The science of how these drugs harm is compelling. The risks are not notional like the risk of sitting on recently varnished furniture. The harms are real enough for GSK to shell out over $1 Billion – in the USA, not elsewhere – for harms done to children.
But yet, perhaps so used to being blamed by the patriarchy for everything that has gone wrong since Eden, most women read an attempt to tell them about this as evidence of an attempt to disempower them. As a violation.
Bevan was the surname of the founder of the British National Health Service – the NHS.
Bevan was the surname of a young woman whose case was extensively covered a few weeks ago in all British newspapers and on television when three days after giving birth to a daughter she threw herself into the Bristol Gorge taking her baby with her. The account from the Guardian is posted below. The most unsettling and detailed account with extensive footage was in the Daily Mail – here. The Guardian’s account is below and here.
The first question on the mind of many including healthcare staff will be whether this was postpartum psychosis. It almost certainly wasn’t – postpartum psychosis is rare and vanishing. See Tschinkel et al Psych Med 07
The newspaper reports also mention that she had been on an antidepressant and had been advised to stop if she wanted to breast-feed. She had done so three days previously.
Charlotte Bevan’s case is very complex but if this detail is correct, and there are no other significant details in her clinical history, all other things being equal it is probable that antidepressant withdrawal may have killed her. What killed will not have been the re-emergence of a depression, but the withdrawal syndrome caused by an antidepressant – just as it can kill a healthy young woman volunteering for an experiment on antidepressants.
The data on suicides and suicidal acts from the thirty day period after stopping antidepressants – where we have it – points to a doubling of the rates for suicidal acts compared to placebo.
This is not an argument for continuing antidepressants. It’s an argument for not starting them. Is a statement like this this an attempt to deprive women of something essential?
Well SSRI and related antidepressants are ineffective in severe mood disorders. The only thing they do passably well for severe mood problems is alleviate the withdrawal depressions that they have caused in the first instance. Is this Scaremongering? Yes.
The reason antidepressants were made available on prescription-only was so that doctors would monger the appropriate scares. Antidepressants are more dangerous than alcohol – which is over the counter, because everyone figures that women can look after themselves when it comes to alcohol.
The get your hands off my antidepressants point of view is presented in a recent blog by Hayley Carter that attracted a lot of attention in the UK – I took antidepressants when I was breast-feeding. The message is:
There is a certain “I’m eating apples from the trees I’ve been told I can eat apples from” quality to this.
But we are no longer in a Paradise where if we keep to the rules everything is guaranteed to work out. We now dwell with the snakes. An Apple a Day from the Tree of Knowledge is a better bet for keeping the doctor away than simply doing as we are told.
The trouble is for every person who agrees with this last statement, there is a growing number of people who want to get back to the Garden. As Better to Die RxISKing it and Better to Die RxISKing it 2 point out that there are a few deluded people who think that by spreading the word, the truth is setting more people free, when in fact efforts to highlight the risks of antidepressants only encourage more and more people to take them.
There is nowhere where this is more chillingly clear than in the case of antidepressants and women of child bearing years, where use of these drugs is soaring.
Any and all thoughts about what can be done to rehabilitate Eve from the trauma of being eliminated from the Garden would be welcome.
Any and all thoughts about how to unite the Archipelago of the Shipwrecked would be welcome. See Crusoe We Say Was Rescued.
Police have confirmed that a body found in the Avon Gorge in Bristol is that of Charlotte Bevan, who went missing with her newborn baby two days ago.
Avon and Somerset police are continuing to scour the cliffs and ledges of the deep gorge looking for Zaani Tiana, who was only four days old when her mother left Bristol maternity hospital with her on Tuesday evening.
Charlotte Bevan, whose body was found in Avon Gorge, Bristol. Photograph: Avon and Somerset police/PA
Extra resources from other police forces, including dogs and their handlers, have been brought in to try to find the infant. Police were searching nearby streets and open spaces.
Questions about the supervision Bevan was receiving intensified on Thursday.
One line of inquiry being followed by police is that Bevan had mental health issues and may have made changes to medication she was taking so she could breastfeed her baby.
The police issued a statement shortly after 11pm on Wednesday confirming that a woman’s body had been found in the gorge, which is spanned by the Clifton suspension bridge, about 15 minutes walk from the hospital.
Her family were informed but police did not confirm that the body was that of Bevan until Thursday afternoon.
A police statement said: “An intensive search operation is still under way in the Avon Gorge area involving police, Avon Search and Rescue, mountain rescue volunteers and the police helicopter. Our thoughts remain with Charlotte’s family and partner Pascal.”
Overnight, a cordon was put in place along the A4, Portway, which runs beside the Avon at the foot of the gorge, and there was a heavy police presence on the bridge.
A scientific investigations team joined police officers in searching the area around Clifton Observatory, above the gorge. Rope teams scaled the cliffs, while a police helicopter circled the area with a searchlight. Paramedics were on standby.
CCTV footage was released earlier on Wednesday showing Bevan, 30, leaving the hospital with her baby on Tuesday evening. She did not have a coat or shoes and is thought to have been wearing hospital slippers, while her baby was wrapped only in blankets.
CCTV footage of Bevan leaving hospital with her baby
The footage shows Bevan walking into a corridor where she appears to talk to a member of staff before collecting her baby from another room. Wearing black leggings, a jumper and slippers, she carries her daughter towards exit doors and pushes a button to get out.
The mother looks down at her daughter while she walks past hospital staff members who are standing around a vending machine. After walking unchallenged past what looks like a reception desk, she leaves the hospital through two sets of automatic doors.
During an emotional press conference at a Bristol police station on Wednesday, Bevan’s boyfriend, Pascal Malbrouck, and her mother, Rachel Fortune, had appealed for her to come home.
University Hospitals Bristol said Bevan had been due to be discharged from St Michael’s hospital on Thursday, but chose to leave early “for reasons unknown to us”.
“Charlotte was recovering from the birth of her baby, and there were no indications that she was planning to self-discharge. Charlotte and her baby were seen by staff at 20.30; when staff went to check on her at 21.05 they found Charlotte and her baby missing and immediately sounded the alarm.”
Asked about security measures at St Michael’s, the trust said: “Access to the maternity wards is restricted and is controlled by CCTV and door release. CCTV cameras were working.”
Bevan is believed to have worked for an environmental charity. A post on her Facebook page says: “I am a free open-minded individual. I love music, art, dancing and making clothes. I’m a free spirit, open-minded and individual. I appreciate people for who they are, kind or nasty – they all need love.”
The page says she was watching a video called Get Through Positive and Negative Thinking Rough Patches at 7.16am on Tuesday. At about 2pm, she appeared to be listening to the 2003 R Kelly song Ignition.
I’ve been trying my best to follow this tragic case, largely due to Hayley Carter’s blog and the response it’s gotten. I’m still not convinced that we really know what happened to Charlotte Bevan, or why.
1. For starters, do we really know she threw herself into the gorge? Or could she have slipped and fallen while taking a treacherous path through the snow in her slippers, while in a confused or distraught state for whatever reason?
2. Are we quite sure she stopped her medications? All the accounts I’ve read have qualified this with “it has been claimed” or “it’s understood.” Is there a reputable source that has stated with certainty that she did stop them? That can be no mean feat when you’re a hospital inpatient – ask anyone who’s tried.
3. Are we quite sure the medications in question were antidepressants? According to this article in the Bristol Post (echoed elsewhere), some of her healthcare providers had labeled her “schizophrenic” or “psychotic” prior to the birth of her child.
That doesn’t mean she was “schizophrenic” – after all, she continued to work a responsible job – but it does mean she may have been pressured into taking antipsychotics. Unfortunately, even if considered merely “depressed” she might have been put on these drugs anyway. It’s a growing trend.
4. Finally, are we quite sure what moved her to leave the hospital? I’d read in the Bristol Post and elsewhere that she’d been referred to social workers three times during her pregnancy, and feared having the baby taken away. Apparently she felt bullied or coerced by those encounters. She was a free spirit, an organizer for an environmental charity, perhaps a skeptic of psychiatric medication, perhaps of many other conventional health, dietary and child-raising dogmas.
She was also living with a French African immigrant and expecting an interracial child. Granted, her folks seemed very accepting, but would all social workers react so well? Maybe it’s just the American in me, but I wonder if Charlotte found she #Couldn’tBreathe when they came around. In too many communities her mental health and fitness to parent would have been automatically under a microscope, no matter what she did.
And she had a psych diagnosis. She may have feared social work intervention for “making changes to her medication”, as the Guardian puts it, or for refusing to jump through some other hoops, or simply for being who and what she was.
None of this detracts one bit from David’s extremely valid points about medication withdrawal — just the opposite. To me it seems that a dramatic narrative is being sold: “She Died Because She Stopped Her Medication!” Before we accept that and say “Yes, but it was the withdrawal, not the depression,” we need to know if it’s even true.
What is so secret about patients’ medical records?
I followed this case as it seemed to me highly likely that Charlotte Bevan walked out of the hospital with her newborn in a state of hallucinations and delirium from stopping her anti-depressant.
As they all trip over themselves trying to perceive Charlotte as mentally ill, the police as usual state “there were no suspicious circumstances”.
Of course there were. Any death is suspicious. Be it from Heroin, alcohol misuse, battering from a second party, whatever……….walking out of a hospital is extremely unusual.
I know because that is what I did.
I walked out of a hospital in a state of delirium and danger because ‘I’ had stopped my Paroxetine and re-started it. Nobody took the time to talk to me, nobody checked on my medication, nobody could be bothered to read my medical notes and nobody could care less.
I wish I could put my medical records up, in there entirety because the ‘doctors’ told the story – it reads like a film script. They described what they did with ‘medication’ or rather what they did not do regarding ‘medication’.
I got into my car after a week in a mental hospital and the half an hour it took me to get home was rife with danger. I wanted to drive in to the loch, I wanted to gas myself with the car, and I wanted the deranged thoughts I had to stop……
But, stronger than that, I wanted to go home to see my own baby and I wanted familiar surroundings…..and for some reason this took precedence over the mad thoughts that were taking me over……….
Paroxetine is shamefully marketed, fraudulently and recklessly and criminally and it was my misfortune to be casually given this drug…..even a miracle of not dying gave those around me no cause for concern except to keep on the savage nature of their relentless persecution….
Well, I didn’t die and Charlotte has a name Bevan, which is also my own, and I come from Welsh stock so the chances are me and Charlotte have a lot in common…and I will speak up for her as she is gone and cannot speak up for herself.
And, what I find increasingly difficult to understand is why relatives, even, from the rich and famous prefer to think that a ‘suicide’ is a ‘suicide’ and do not seem to spend one minute thinking about the ‘medication’ which is staring them in the face.
I wrote this ages ago, but I did not want to interfere so I sat on it……
Police ‘not treating deaths as suspicious’…………..it’s just dreadful, awful, frustrating………..it certainly is..
Just a thought, as it happened to a lesser extent to me. Gave up medication when pregnant, felt fine, then WD hit me, yep when baby was about 8 weeks old, not too bad.
Was a given a valium, which sent me immediately psychotic …. luckily the power of motherhood, I kept it together, but the result? Refused another valium, forcibly medicated, sent to a mental institution for 3 weeks…… then they sent me home, no tablets realised I didn’t need any. Imagine the WDs and PTSD. Had no choice but to reinstate the zoloft? Next baby, a Zoloft half a heart baby. the spiral of drugs, and damn I didn’t need any.