Pregnancy and Bipolar Disorder
By: Beth McHugh 2007
Bipolar disorder can vary enormously in both severity and type of symptoms between person to person. Therefore the assistance of a psychiatrist will be necessary to help you manage your bipolar symptoms during pregnancy. Lithium and epilum are two of the drugs of choice used to manage the bipolar state and it is best for your baby if you can be as drug-free as possible during pregnancy, particularly during the first trimester.
Pregnancy can be a physically stressful time, so ensure that your diet is excellent and you get plenty of exercise. The latter can both help with lowering stress levels which, in turn, lower the likelihood of a recurrence of mania or a swing into a depressive phase.
Now is the time to find a good support system for after the birth. If you can establish a team of babysitters and home help at this stage, you will maximize your chances of going through the post-birth period with a minimum of trouble.
Remember that the period after birth is taxing for even the most robust mother, and making sure that you have people to talk to, people to give you a much-needed break, and people to do errands and household chores for you will allow you to focus on your baby and yourself. Keeping yourself on an even keel is very important.
Ask a trusted family member or friend to keep an eye on your mood swings during pregnancy. Hormonal changes during pregnancy happen to all mothers, but if you have an experienced person who knows you well and can look for unhealthy signs in you, particularly those of mania, that would be advantageous. This is why you must choose a trusted person, and be prepared to follow their advice. You may feel that you can “do it all” but if you exhaust yourself during pregnancy, you only increase the chances of mood disturbances after the birth.
Look around now for a support group for people suffering from bipolar or other forms of mental illness in your local area. It doesn’t matter if none of them are presently having a baby. If you can establish a rapport with them prior to giving birth, you will have a ready-made support network available to you in the long months ahead. These people, who will have trodden the road before, will be people that you can openly discuss your fears and concerns with. Many will already have children of their own and be able to give you hope and support should you need it.
Finally, always consult your doctor before starting, stopping or changing your medication.