Pregnant While Bipolar

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Photo by Nuno Ibra Remane. Used with permission under a Creative Commons License.

Going through pregnancy while bipolar is tricky. Bipolar disorder symptoms can worsen during pregnancy. According to WebMD, “Pregnant women or new mothers with bipolar disorder have seven times the risk of hospital admissions compared to pregnant women who do not have bipolar disorder.” As I’ve stated before, depression can lead to low birth weight in newborns, and stopping medications abruptly can harm both the bipolar sufferer and their unborn child. Manic episodes can contribute to poor decision making, such as smoking cigarettes or drinking while pregnant. And there are several medications which treat bipolar which can harm infants both in utero and while breastfeeding, contributing to neural tube defects as well as others.

People with bipolar disorder who wish to become pregnant need to closely monitor their health, even more so than people without mental illnesses. Especially because there is a clear link between bipolar disorder and post-partum psychosis.

Thankfully, there are steps you can take. There exists medication that can be safely taken during pregnancy which treat depressive and manic episodes. Lithium needs to be closely monitored, as it can cause a rare heart defect in the first three months of pregnancy for about 1 in 2000 births. Talk therapy poses no risk to the baby. Added structure during the day can contribute to good sleep habits, which can be disrupted during pregnancy. Sleep is a serious factor in whether a bipolar sufferer will succumb to a mood episode, so it’s important that a pregnant woman gets enough. Exercise, which is crucial in maintaining good mental health, will aid a pregnant woman in controlling her moods.

If you are planning a pregnancy, talk to your obstetrician and psychiatrist to make a comprehensive plan. Your treatment team will help you. Good luck!

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About Cassandra Stout

Freelance writer Cassandra Stout blogs at The Bipolar Parent, a comprehensive resource for parents with mental illnesses. She is currently working on Committed, her forthcoming memoir detailing her time spent in a mental hospital while separated from her husband and newborn. Cassandra holds degrees from the University of Arizona in Creative Writing and Journalism, and is a member of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association. She balances her literary work with raising her children, feeding her cat, and managing her bipolar disorder.
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4 Responses to Pregnant While Bipolar

  1. dyane says:

    Excellent article, Cass!

    That’s so good you mentioned postpartum psychosis here. Yesterday I read a post published on BP (Bipolar) Magazine’s blog. It was written by “a new mom with bipolar” and I was shocked there was no mention of postpartum psychosis. This post would’ve been way more useful…..

    • Thank you, Dyane! I sure do appreciate your support. Maybe that author just forgot about postpartum psychosis–which, if she did, is a rather egregious oversight!

      • dyane says:

        Everyone makes mistakes (except me – just kidding!) I think they should have an editor review every blog post to prevent that kind of oversight. I don’t think that anyone on staff reviews the posts closely once the person has written a few times. (I was told that by a “little bird” who has blogged for them.) 😉

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