Bipolar Disorder and Pregnancy

September 23, 2012

I was recently interviewed for an upcoming production that will address bipolar disorder and pregnancy.  As a result, I thought it would be an appropriate time to share my thoughts on bipolar disorder and pregnancy.  The pressing question is can a woman with bipolar disorder have a successful pregnancy and postpartum period?

I believe the answer to this question is yes but there seems to be debate over whether or not a woman with bipolar disorder should even become pregnant let alone have a successful pregnancy.

In my opinion, the decision to become pregnant and have children is a decision that is up to the woman with bipolar disorder.  Of course, I believe she should consult with her physician, who hopefully has experience in mental illness related to childbearing, specifically in treating women with bipolar disorder.  She should also take in the consideration the level of social, emotional and practical support available to her.

I do not believe she should be told “do not get pregnant” but rather she should be told “if you choose to get pregnant, be sure to have a comprehensive plan in place to address prevention, treatment and recovery.”  It seems the better prepared a woman is, the better the outcome will be.

But even when the woman has everything in place, a relapse can still occur.  For this reason, I believe having a plan in place to address a relapse, can help her become stabilized more quickly.  The treatment plan usually involves medication, therapy, and support.

Often women are reluctant to take medication during pregnancy or when they are breastfeeding.  I can certainly understand why but there is always a risk/benefit analysis when it comes to taking medication.  It is for this reason that a pregnant bipolar woman work closely with her physician before, during and after the pregnancy.  I also suggest consulting with her pharmacist, who has tremendous knowledge about medications, to determine what is the best option during her pregnancy and after the baby is born.  In my opinion, the USA can definitely learn from the United Kingdom in addressing the support needs of postpartum women.

Of course, there is always risk in pregnancy, whether or not there is a history of mental illness.  For me, personally, I did not have a prior history of mental illness yet I was still stricken with postpartum psychosis, a rare but serious mental illness related to childbearing.  Although postpartum psychosis can strike any woman after the birth of a baby, there is a much greater risk for women, who have a history of bipolar disorder.

In my case, I would eventually be given the diagnosis of bipolar disorder, postpartum onset.  Thankfully, after many trials, tribulations and attempts at treatment, I have been in remission for six years.  Unfortunately, I have not been able to have a successful subsequent pregnancy.  Yes, as difficult as the illnesses have been, I have no regrets and would do it all again.  The blessings of motherhood and having my son in my life have been worth it all.

I welcome feedback and comments on my blog.  I would love to hear about the experiences of other women and those that provide treatment to women with bipolar disorder.  Please be sure to write your comment below.  I look forward to hearing from you.

Also, please consider “liking” my Facebook page.  You will find it under Mental Health Advocate Jennifer Moyer.

Resources and additional reading:

Do Pregnancy and Bipolar Disorder Mix?

Pregnancy with Bipolar Disorder-Stay on Medications or Not?

Managing Bipolar Disorder and Pregnancy

Management of Bipolar Disorder During Pregnancy and the Postpartum Period

Postpartum psychosis: Affected parents speak out