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Tom Cruise Weighs in on Pregnancy, Scientology, and Pseudo-Sciences

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Biology 202
2006 Second Web Paper
On Serendip

Tom Cruise Weighs in on Pregnancy, Scientology, and Pseudo-Sciences

Stefanie Fedak

"When you talk about postpartum, you can take people today, women, and what you do is you use vitamins. There is a hormonal thing that is going on, scientifically, you can prove that. But when you talk about emotional, chemical imbalances in people, there is no science behind that. You can use vitamins to help a woman through those things."

-Tom Cruise on Brooke Shields' Use of Paxil for her Postpartum Depression (1)

Tom Cruise most recently starred in Summer 2005 thriller "War of the Worlds" but, on his barrage of press junkets, he engaged in a war of words regarding Brooke Shields' use of paxil for her Postpartum Depression. Shields, in a July 2005 "New York Times" Op-Ed contribution aptly titled "War of Words", responded publicly to Cruise's assertions that women can combat Postpartum Depression by using vitamins and that psychiatry is nothing more than a "pseudo-science". (1)

Cruise famously attacked Shields, who authored a book on Postpartum Depression titled "Down Came the Rain: My Journey Through Postpartum Depression", and "Today" show host Matt Lauer for supporting the use of doctor prescribed medications for the treatment of depression and ADD. (2) Cruise, a very vocal Scientologist, and fiancée Katie Holmes are now expecting a child of their own, and I have heard innumerable gossip column watchers, Page Six readers, and casual observers exclaim, "I hope Katie Holmes gets Postpartum Depression, and then Tom Cruise will understand!" While I wouldn't wish a serious disorder like Postpartum Depression on anyone, the question begs to be asked, "If Katie Holmes, or any pregnant woman, were to suffer Postpartum Depression, is Tom Cruise's recommendation that she use vitamins to resolve the issue correct?"

There are five recognized mood disorders pregnant and new mothers may experience. These disorders fall on a spectrum of severity, with baby blues being least severe and postpartum psychosis as most acute. Roughly 80% of women report experiencing the baby blues, with the onset generally 1 to 3 weeks following birth. The symptoms include weeping, anxiety, feelings of dependency, and general mood instability. (3) Birth is both a physically and emotionally taxing ordeal, and the weeks that follow are often a difficult period of transition for the new mother and her spouse/partner. As a woman's hormones rebalance, the baby blues will fade. Socialization with other moms, allotting personal time, and receiving adequate support from family and friends will help women struggling postpartum, without a need for medical intervention. (3)

Women may also experience depression or increased anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and panic disorders, during or after pregnancy. Studies show that 15% to 20% of mothers suffer from depression or anxiety, much like Brooke Shields. The start of symptoms may be rapid, but generally the onset is gradual and the common course of treatment is psychotherapy combined with medication and the help of support groups and family. (3) Obsessive-compulsive symptoms and panic disorders are slightly less common, occurring in anywhere between 3% and 5% of new mothers. The course of action for these illnesses is much the same, a combination of psychotherapy and medication in closely monitored dosages. (3) But, what about vitamins, as Tom Cruise suggests? Is there any evidence that shows effectiveness of all-natural treatments and Postpartum Depression?

Studies conducted on the use of vitamins and minerals in the treatment of stress, depression, and general anxiety show that there is some credibility to Cruise's assertion that vitamins can be beneficial in the treatment of mood disorders. In a number of publications, B vitamins have been repeatedly singled out as a natural alternative to prescription medications. B vitamins facilitate the function of neurotransmitters, much like antidepressants, allowing for regulation of moods and emotions. (5) B vitamins produce a naturally-occurring compound known as SAM-e (S-adenosylmethionine), which helps produce serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. Increased levels of B6, B12, and Folic Acid inhibit deficiencies in the neurotransmitters that produce happiness, improving mood and productivity. (4) However, alterations in diet and vitamin and mineral intake are typically not sufficient for all patients experiencing depression and more rigorous and traditional courses of medication should be followed. (5)

As we have discussed in class, there are no conclusions or right answers in science, only ways of getting closer to the truth. Perhaps vitamins do have beneficial effects for some depressed individuals, however, first hand accounts and detailed scientific studies tell tales of women who desperately need psychiatric intervention, and without it put themselves and their children in danger. In Shields' "New York Times" Op-Ed she recalls, "I wasn't thrilled to be taking drugs. In fact, I prematurely stopped taking them and had a relapse that almost led me to drive my car into a wall with [my daughter] Rowan in the backseat." (2) In the most serious of Postpartum Depression, a woman may experience psychosis, much like Andrea Yates, who killed her five children in 2001. Andrea had been taking antidepressants, and just days before she drowned each of her children the family's bathtub her psychiatrist suspended their use. (4)

Would Andrea Yates have killed her children if she continued taking anti-depressants? Could Brooke Shields have avoided the pitfalls of Postpartum Depression through increased vitamin and mineral intake? These questions will likely never be answered. What is known, however, is that anti-depressants appear to be the most effective treatment available to women who struggle through Postpartum Depression. Frankly, if I were Katie Holmes, until clinical trials and substantial evidence suggest otherwise, I would put my faith in medicine and not seek help from an increase in Folic Acid intake.

1)Brooke Shields' Op-Ed from The New York Times, Published July 2005
2)Transcript from NBC's "Today" Show with Matt Lauer, Aired June 2005
3) A Brief Introduction to Postpartum Illness , Authored by Shoshana S. Bennett PhD., 2003.
4) Synopsis of the Andrea Yates Case , courtesy of the Court TV Crime Library
5) BioNeurix review of Amoryn, an all natural treatment for depression
6) "Altering the Brain's Chemisty to Elevate Mood" , an article by Brown, Gaby, and Reichert



Comments made prior to 2007

Please read our book "Could It Be B12? An Epidemic of Misdiagnoses," Quill Driver Books, 2005 which tells how the medical and health care community is failing at diagnosing vitamin B12 deficiency. Vitamin B12 deficiency causes mental illness (psychosis, confusion, depression, hallucinations, dementia) including post-partum depression. It causes neurologic injury when treated late and can even cause death. Numerous malpractice suits have been won by people who are permanently injured. All women with post-partum depression must be tested for B12 deficiency by using more sensitive tests (methylmalonic acid, homocysteine), before placing them on anti-depressants. All children diagnosed with autism also need vitamin B12 deficiency and inborn errors of B12 metabolism rule out--- but rarely are ... Sally Pacholak, 5 February 2007