More and more people are taking antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications, and among that number is a growing legion of women who say these medications help them become better mothers.
One such mother, Anne-Marie Lindsey, says her daily pill regimen wards off paralyzing panic attacks. She has an infant son, and the new mother worries about him.
"Without the medication, my mind starts racing, and it can't stop, 'What if he gets sick? What if he gets sick? What if he gets sick?'," the New Haven, Conn., woman told "Good Morning America" in an interview that aired Wednesday on the show. "I might need to be in a bathroom with the door locked, hyperventilating, 'what if he gets sick?'"
A study that will be published in the medical journal, Pediatrics, next month suggests as many as one in five new mothers suffers from heightened anxiety in the weeks and months after childbirth. Researchers at Penn State College of Medicine are now encouraging friends, family members and doctors who are treating new mothers to monitor them closely for anxiety disorders so that the mother and baby can get the support they need in the first critical months of a child's life, HealthDay News reports.
Doctors now monitor new mothers for postpartum depression, but not for anxiety. Researchers reportedly found that anxiety - acute emotions in response to a perceived stressful, dangerous or threatening situation - was more common than depression after pregnancy, HealthDay also reported.
Melissa Sanchez told "GMA" that she had several panic attacks after her son was born, adding that she "psychically collapsed.
"I couldn't get out of bed all weekend …," Sanchez, of Manhattan, said.
She reluctantly agreed with a therapist's recommendation that she start taking Celexa, a drug that would calm her nerves.
"After about six weeks, I was back to myself," Sanchez said.
She has no doubt that her anti-anxiety drug made her a better mother.
"Oh, absolutely … I don't think I would have been able to function," she said, adding that, without the drug "I think I would have been admitted somewhere. I really do."
Lindsey and Sanchez were each under a doctor's care when they were prescribed the medications.
A February article in Parenting magazine focused on the practice of taking the medications - such as Zoloft, Prozac and Xanax - for this purpose. The story was titled "Xanax Makes Me a Better Mom," and it set off a heated debate.
Michelle Canarick is a therapist who specializes in mothers. She says medication can be a good thing, but only under a doctor's supervision.
"I think mothers should be thinking of it as …'I'm going through a hard time and I'm going to use medication to get me through this'," she said, adding that the use of the medications shouldn't be "a forever kind of idea."
Ann McWilliams calls her time on Xanax a temporary fix. The Petal, Miss., mother and author of the blog "Mommy Needs a Xanax," went on the medication when full-time parenting felt like just too much.
"It did get me over a speed bump … It helped to remove me from the high-pressure feeling that I had," McWilliams said.
Aware of the addictive nature of Xanax, McWilliams recently weaned herself off of the drug, but she - and Sanchez and Lindsey - all say no one should judge mothers who turn to medication.
"How can you be a good mom if you don't take care of yourself?" McWilliams said. "You wouldn't tell a diabetic not to take a medication just because they're a mom … I don't know why anyone would tell anyone who needs a medication not to take a medication just because she's a mother."