Bipolar Disorder and Pregnancy
Does Bipolar Disorder Cause Problems During Pregnancy?
Pregnancy can be a rough time for any woman. Those already dealing with bipolar disorder, though, face more than their fair share of potential problems. More than that, however, is that since nearly half of all pregnancies are unplanned, learning more about how the two work together is a must, as the onset of bipolar is typically at early adulthood.
The Role of Birth Control
Those women who are diagnosed with bipolar disorder need to understand the potential problems associated with unplanned pregnancy. Most take a form of effective birth control to help prevent the problem, but there are mood stabilizers that are known to decrease the effectiveness of birth control and birth control medications that are known to decrease the effectiveness of mood stabilizers. As a result, most women with bipolar should know more about how to supplement birth control efforts from the outset.
Women with bipolar, though, can certainly have healthy pregnancies. Prenatal counseling is a must, and it should likely start at least three months before the pregnancy does. If it’s at all possible, a woman should try to avoid medication during the first trimester. Increased support through psychosocial and clinical means is also a must, as are prenatal vitamins.
If medication can’t be avoided, the minimum effective dose is really best for pregnant women, but the decision either way can’t just be made by the mom-to-be. Instead, involving a significant other who can look after the mom is a must. Both parties should look at the risks and benefits involved.
There are a few medications that are more dangerous than others, including balproate, carbamazepine, and lithium. They can create a number of problems for the developing fetus, including neural tube defects, cardiac problems, and even poor facial feature development, as well as general growth retardation. The women who must take one of those medications must be carefully monitored, and ultrasounds and echocardiograms should be regularly performed to keep track of baby’s development.
The concerns for women with bipolar don’t just extend during pregnancy, but also postpartum as well. Both counseling and medication are a must, and mothers need adequate sleep to help stabilize their moods. Breastfeeding can be a real concern because all mood-stabilizers are passed through breast milk, so mothers have to learn more about neonatal toxicity.
It is possible to manage bipolar disorder during and after pregnancy, but it often takes a bit of extra work.