It’s a call Giuseppina Sinopoli Bozzo has never forgotten. As the head counsellor and assistant director of Motherisk—a Canadian call centre for new parents and expectant mothers and fathers—she spoke to a worried dad-to-be a few years ago. On speakerphone so his wife could hear, he explained that she had been taking antidepressants and they were worried it would affect their baby’s health. “Their friend was on the same medication and had given birth to a baby with a birth defect,” says Sinopoli Bozzo. She quickly alleviated their concern, assuring the couple that the medication wouldn’t harm their child.
Immense relief ensued—but it wasn’t the couple who exhibited the greatest solace. Their friend had been listening in too, and upon hearing the news, she burst into tears. “She blamed herself for taking an antidepressant that she believed had damaged her baby,” says Sinopoli Bozzo. She could have been spared so much guilt and anguish had she called Motherisk sooner.
Since many women don’t know they are several weeks pregnant until after a missed period, they worry they’ve done something harmful to their baby once they get the news, such as drink a glass of wine or take certain medications. “Sometimes it’s just a simple question,” she says, “but more often, we get calls from women, some even crying, they’re so worried about something they’ve been exposed to.”
Sinopoli Bozzo, 33, has been a Motherisk counsellor for seven years. As with many jobs, there are good days, and there are bad ones. “Most women are grateful for the help,” she says. “However, some women who don’t know much about Motherisk are skeptical and question the information. Those calls are a bit more difficult.”