Anti-depresants and birth defects

Hello All,

I had a question about some issues my fiancé and I have been discussing lately about our upcoming marriage and married life.

The issue is that my fiancé is have a very hard time right now, just finished school, moved to a different state to be with me, recent death of her Grandfather, starting a new job, and the usual stresses of wedding preparation. Understandably, her psychological state has been pretty shaky at times, so much so that she’s considered going on anti depressants.

This issue is that she, as a licensed pharmacist, is aware that there is a risk of serious birth defects if she were to become pregnant while on the medication, or even for a period after she stops. Since we’re not married right now, this isn’t a concern. But what about after we’re married?

In an attempt to console her, I have offered that we could abstain from marital relations even after the wedding, for however long it might take for her to adjust to all this craziness going on and then perhaps she could go off the medication.

But this has brought up another issue. Now she’s concerned that if we abstain from relations after the wedding that our marriage will be somehow invalid or in some way defective, since she has heard that never consummating the marriage is a grounds for annulment.

I’m wondering if that’s the case? I too have heard that never consummating a marriage could be grounds for an annulment, but then Joseph and Mary never consummated their marriage and I hardly think anyone would question the validity of their marriage right?

Could someone please direct me to the relevant material in the catechism, bible, and/or cannon law to help reassure me distressed fiancé?

Please help!

Your marriage is real and valid at the time you exchange consent.

Consummation makes it indissoluble among the baptized. However, dissolution of the bond would have to be appealed to the Pope and for good reason. So it is a non issue.

Delaying consummation is NOT grounds for a decree of nullity.

There are some antidepressants that are OK for pregnancy. Ideally, she wouldn’t have to take anything. However, a healthy mom is essential to a healthy pregnancy. Sometimes the benefits outweigh the risks. It also depends how high her dosage is. She may also benefit from seeing a psychologist versus being on medication. Speak with her OB if you have concerns. Do not have her go off of medication without the help of a doctor.

Is she using nfp? Have her start now so that she gets the hang of it. Then you can still consummate your marriage and abstain only during fertile times.

Congratulations on your upcoming marriage!

Just use NFP. :shrug:

Thanks for all the feedback so far, 1ke, your post was especially edifying for helping me understand how to frame this issue.

To answer some of the questions that came up:

Yes, she and I are planning on using NFP and she’s already started monitoring the various signs. We are especially fortunate that our parish has a very robust marriage prep program and they set us up with all those materials and resources.

The concern we’re having is that assuming we use NFP, especially as a new couple, mistakes or misinterpretations of the signs is a possibility, however remote, and she became concerned about what effects whatever given anti depressant she might be on would have on a baby if we happened to be surprised by a pregnancy .

And, like a said, she’s a pharmacist, so she knows about some of the less intense drugs, those aren’t the one’s she’s considering, so that’s not really the issue. And she is already seeing a therapist, which has been very fruitful.

Basically what’s going on here is that I floated the idea of us abstaining to comfort her with the knowledge that if she was really concerned about possible birth defects while on an anti depressant, worst case we could abstain for awhile after we got married so to eliminate that possibility.

So then the issue becomes, if we did that, would our marriage still be valid after we get married but before it’s consummated? What’s the official church teaching on the status of an unconsummated marriage?

Anyways, thanks again all for the messages, its nice to know I can turn to such an active and faithful resource such as these forums when these kinds of issues pop up.

If she is a licensed pharmacist, she should know that there are a variety of antidepressants, not all of which are considered harmful in pregnancy. You also don’t mention if she has considered counseling, which could actually go a long way all by itself.

I second (third? fourth?) the recommendations to learn how to chart if she does not already, when there is no pressure to “get it right” because there’s no sex. You should also learn so that you can help her, and then she doesn’t have to feel like a “gatekeeper.” Even a very conservative form of NFP would offer you more time together for intimacy than maintaining abstinence for an indefinite period as newlyweds.

I’d also encourage you to be as supportive and helpful as you can. Sometimes a person can put a lot of pressure on themselves to be perfect and put together when it’s just not realistic (probably not ever, but especially when she’s got as many things on her plate as she does), and without meaning to others can trigger that. I’m not saying you’re not trying to be supportive and helpful, but just emphasizing it because knowing a person has a support system - someone who is there no matter what - can be an enormous relief for those who struggle with depression and anxiety.

Edit: Just saw your update. If she’s not on an antidepressant yet, it makes sense to me that she would consult with her therapist and consider one that is less “intense” to start, rather than pull out all the big guns right away without knowing if they are needed. :shrug: But of course she knows her medical history and hopefully has a good therapist who can help her be on a good path.

No, if you remain abstinent, it doesn’t affect the validity of the marriage, but it can be dissolved if there’s been no consummation.

This is really, at its heart, a medical question. I don’t think you will find a satisfactory answer here. In my opinion I would not let this be the deciding factor in whether or not you should marry. Is there actually something else that is causing her to be hesitant? I’m just speculating.

God bless and I am sorry you are going through this.

I believe that your dilemma is showing signs that you should speak to a priest or deacon about this situation. As I see it, this is not only a medical issue (your fiancé is considering strong medication only, perhaps indicating a serious medical problem not just temporary depression) but this issue impacts possible future children for you. If your fiancé is on this medication for several months, a few years or indefinitely it may impact your life forever.

The way you are beginning to describe this situation seems as if you may not be abstaining from sex for just a few weeks, it is looking more like several months or longer? I believe this situation calls for spiritual direction. God bless you.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.