In a 2019 interview on Dr. Berlin’s Informed Pregnancy podcast, Amanda Seyfried made an important confession about her first pregnancy with daughter Nina, whom she welcomed with husband Thomas Sadoski in 2017. The Mean Girls star said that she’d stayed on antidepressant medication Lexapro throughout pregnancy and postpartum, a very different choice from the one her character Julie Davis makes in new film A Mouthful of Air, an adaptation of Amy Koppelman’s eponymous novel directed by the author herself. In the movie, Seyfried’s Julie first goes on an antidepressant after a harrowing bout of postpartum depression that ends in a suicide attempt. When she gets pregnant a second time, she insists on going off the medication. In a new exclusive interview with SheKnows, Seyfriend explains why she has so much compassion for the choice her character made in this film set in the ’90s and why she’s so grateful that she made the opposite choice for herself.
In her 2019 Dr Berlin’s interview, per Parents.com, Seyfried was upfront about her medication regimen throughout her first pregnancy: “I didn’t get off my antidepressant — it’s really for anti-anxiety for me,” she clarified. “I’ve been taking Lexapro for years and years and years, and I didn’t get off of it. I was on an extremely low dose.”
Seyfried has since welcomed a second child with Sadoski: a son, Thomas, born in September 2020. And the actress — refreshingly, in a world that’s still all-too-quick to stigmatize antidepressants as a long-term treatment option — is upfront now that she doesn’t know if she’ll ever go off that medication, even crediting it with potentially having helped her avoid postpartum depression after both of her pregnancies.
“I don’t want to feel bad, I don’t want to feel scared. I want to feel as supported as possible because this country doesn’t support women, maternal mental health, or maternal health at all.”
“I felt so lucky to have had that research and to have that confidence in taking my medicine while I was pregnant,” Seyfried tells me. “I knew that I was doing it for me and my baby. I knew that, but people didn’t know that in the ’90s [when A Mouthful of Air is set]… I have so much compassion for that because I don’t know what I would have done either. I would have been so confused and frustrated and scared.”
In the film, Seyfried’s Julie is surrounded by people who beg her to stay on her antidepressant medication for fear of the adverse effects of her stopping, but Julie’s anxiety about potential effects on her baby make that feel like an impossible choice. Today, we know that many women are able to safely stay on antidepressant medication throughout pregnancy, as Seyfried did — but someone like Julie, 30 years ago, didn’t know that.
“It was harder then,” Seyfried says of Julie trying to navigate her depression. “We could have probably told the story this day and age, but I think we need to remind people that that stigma is still here and it hasn’t gone away. I still find it shocking that people are like, ‘Yeah, you talk about antidepressants,’ it’s like, ‘Why do we still feel like it’s a surprise? When is it not going to be a surprise?’ We survive with these things.”
“I think I didn’t suffer from postpartum depression because I had my medication that I take every day,” Seyfried adds. “I don’t want to feel bad, I don’t want to feel scared. I want to feel as supported as possible because this country doesn’t support women, maternal mental health, or maternal health at all. Postpartum, the fourth trimester, is nothing, it doesn’t exist to the health care industry at all.”
.@CandiceAccola opens up about asking for help postpartum. Read her personal essay below. ? @candiceandkayla @CandiceKayla @cwtvd #VampireDiaries #TheVampireDiaries https://t.co/4aJ73rIOfn
— SheKnows (@SheKnows) May 15, 2021
In many ways, A Mouthful of Air echoes Seyfried’s first sentiments: that antidepressant medication is a necessary medical treatment like any other, and that the stigma surrounding it has cost us dearly. But the film is also an up-close look at the fourth trimester that Seyfried brings up next, and just how insufficient the care in place for that period can be.
Finn Wittrock, who plays Julie’s husband Ethan Davis, saw himself playing out that fourth trimester onscreen just a year after welcoming his son in 2019 with wife Sarah Roberts, and was deeply affected by the film’s portrayal of how much more difficult it could be.
“It was weirdly close to home,” he admits. “Having a kid changes your whole perception of yourself in the world, and it is such a challenge. It’s so hard for a typical person. And so for someone who’s already dealing with depression, mental health issues, it can be a spiral.”
“What I’ve learned from this movie about parenting is that I really need to make sure that I am taking care of myself in order to be the best mother,” Seyfried says — but she knows it’s a lot easier for her to say it than it is for other mothers. “For so many people who can’t afford the amount of therapists I have because they don’t have good health insurance or they have to pay out of pocket, it’s not available…I’m lucky. [But] like what, why? We’re in 2021.”
A Mouthful of Air is out in theaters on October 29, 2021.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, you should call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, The Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386, or reach Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741. You can also head to your nearest emergency room or call 911.
Before you go, check out a few of the stories of celebrity moms who talk about their postpartum depression experiences: