Is It Selfish to Try for a Baby If You Have Had Depression?

September 24, 2020 Jennifer Lear

The decision to try for a baby is one of the most difficult you will ever make. However you choose to do it, there are about a million things to consider: am I the right age? Am I mature enough? Am I financially ready? Am I prepared for the toll this will take on my body, my relationship, my finances, and my career? Am I ready to give my heart and soul to this person I haven't even met yet? And for me, there was the big one: is it selfish of me to bring a child into the world given my history of depression and mental illness?

When Is the 'Right Time' to Try for a Baby?

In many ways, my circumstances read like a textbook on first-time parenthood: I was in my mid-late 20s, healthy, married, and financially secure. To an outsider, the decision to have a baby seemed almost obvious. Not that we cared about any of that: we decided to start trying for a baby because we wanted one, not because our situation seemed to warrant it. We loved each other and wanted to share that love with a child. (At this point, I should say that I am in no way suggesting there is a right way to have a child — I am just recalling my circumstances, and almost laughing at how clichéd they were in a 1950s, And Baby Makes Three kind of way.) 

Is It Selfish to Try for a Baby When You Have a History of Depression?

And yet something was stopping me from throwing out my birth control pills. It was the niggling sensation that it was wrong of me to try for a baby when just two years earlier, I'd had a complete breakdown as a result of depression and lifelong obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). I worried that the process of "trying" would cause a spike in my symptoms, especially if we had difficulty conceiving. But more than anything, I worried that if we were successful, I would be condemning an innocent child to a life of misery — watching its mother fall in and out of depression and having to raise itself because its mother was too wrapped up in her own problems to be a real parent. On top of that, I worried that I would be passing on a genetic predisposition for mental illness, and effectively handing my child a life sentence of pain, rejection, and struggle. What kind of monster would do that?

Then I remembered something I had read years ago: I am more than my illness. I might be someone who has a history of depression, but I am also someone who has overcome depression. Overcoming depression is not just a matter of "cheering up" — it takes unbelievable strength, patience, and commitment. And what better qualities are there for a new parent to have? Moreover, people who have experienced mental health issues tend to have a greater capacity for empathy and understanding — both virtues in a parent caring for a developing child. 

A History of Depression Should Not Stop You from Becoming a Parent

In the end, I realized I was denying myself something wonderful for no reason. One of the cruelest things that depression does is make you doubt yourself and your abilities. I forced myself to remember who I was beyond my illness: I was a strong, capable person who had proven time and time again that she could overcome whatever life threw at her. Most importantly, though, I was someone who would love her child more than anything in the universe, and do everything in her power to ensure that child's happiness.

So I did it, and I am now the mother of the most perfect, kind, hilarious, vivacious little girl, who is — as you would expect — my entire universe. Now, I would not for a moment suggest that having a child is a "solution" to mental illness, and I didn't even consider getting pregnant until I was healthy and stable, but I would urge those of you who have experienced depression to not let that experience make you feel as though you don't deserve to be a parent. You deserve to be happy, and if you believe that having a child would make you happy, I say go for it. I did it, and I've never looked back. In fact, the next one is due in December.

See Also

APA Reference
Lear, J. (2020, September 24). Is It Selfish to Try for a Baby If You Have Had Depression?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 24 from

Author: Jennifer Lear

You can find Jennifer on Facebook.

Leave a reply