Bipolar and Pregnancy

I was diagnosed with BP 11 years ago, around the time I met my husband.  We are 30 now and have been discussing starting a family in a year or so.  We are both anxious about me weening & remaining off my meds for a year, but there are too many health risks for the baby, otherwise.  How have other BP women dealt with pregnancy and maintaining stability?

I was around 30 when I had my last child. I was either 30 while I was pregnant or turned 30 the year I had her, can’t remember which.  Anyway, not really that important.  I had not been diagnosed bipolar yet but I was having major symptoms and we were on a military base.  The military doctors, before I got pregnant, were trying to get my symptoms under control with stuff like Ativan, Xanax, and finally Prozac.  They gave me Prozac either right before or right after I found out I was pregnant.  Most doctors believe that Prozac is a “safe” drug while you are pregnant.  But Prozac didn’t work for me.  It made my symptoms worse or it just didn’t do the job and my symptoms got worse.  My pregnancy was 9 months of massive mood swings, arguments over inconceivable nothingness and emotional roller coasters with twists and turns that wouldn’t stop.  I lived a nightmare.  My marriage never recovered.

A friend of mine now takes Effexor.  She is 30 and recently married and her and her husband are considering having a child in the future.  She discussed with her doctor the alternative medicines and once again she was also told that Prozac was the “safe” drug of choice.  It has the lowest risk of birth defects and side effects to the baby and to you.

However, I have my own opinion about this and this is my own opinion after talking with one of my doctors and explaining to him the torment I went thru during my pregnancy with no mood stabilizers.  First of all, ALL mood stabilizers come with some risk to you and the baby.  Even Prozac (in all its unearned glory) comes with risk.  There are litigations going on now for mothers whose children have suffered birth defects as a result from taking drugs such as Paxil, Zoloft, and yes Prozac while pregnant.  But you have to understand risks don’t mean results.  Just like with side effect, not every person who takes the same drug is going to have the same side effect results, Not everyone taking a drug is going to end up having a child with a birth defect.  You have weight the risk vs. the rewards.  I take Geodon.  If I was to get pregnant today, I would not stop taking my Geodon.  Yes there is a risk, but the thing you must consider, what we always must take into consideration, does the risk outweigh the reward.  Can you function for 9months without your medication? Without ANY medication?  Yeah maybe I could get thru one day.  Maybe I might even get thru two.  But I’m not fooling anyone, including myself if I’m going to stand here and lie to you and say I can make it one month let alone 9 months without my medication.  My whole world would fall apart.  I would no longer function.  I would go into a depression.  I would start having mood swings, rages, I wouldn’t be able to take care of my children, manage my bills, clean my house or even get myself to my doctor appointments.  How is that helping anyone?

This is something you need to talk over with your doctor and you need to determine together if the risks outweigh the rewards or vice versa.  Or maybe there is another medication that he feels will produce the same results with less risk.  All medications come with risks during pregnancy.  Pregnancy is a tricky thing to get thru when you are on maintenance medications.  It is always important that you talk to your doctor and get his advice.  But don’t put yourself thru 9 months of torment when there are alternatives out there.  You can have a safe pregnancy and still remain stable with the help of your doctor.  Just work together.  It’s always about teamwork and open lines of communication.  Let your doctor know now that you are considering having a baby and you want to know what options are available or what you would need to do.  Risk vs. rewards, it’s always a hard decision but we always have to make it.

You must also consider that a healthy diet and good exercise will help keep you stable.  Even during pregnancy, a low impact exercise program will help you keep fit and stay balanced.  The better we feel physically, the better we will feel mentally and emotionally.  Meditation is always good too.  My therapist recommends Yoga.  I’m not sure how well that will go over while you are pregnant but you might be able to give it a try.  It’s good for the body and the mind.  It really helps balance you out.

Most importantly is speaking to your doctor. Let him know your plans.  Be kind to your body and it will be kind to you.

4 thoughts on “Bipolar and Pregnancy

  1. I am currently 31 weeks pregnant and Bipolar. I did amazingly well for the first trimester. I was more stable then I have been in years. Things started to get difficult a few months ago when I started getting manic. Mania doesn’t destroy my life anymore because I know how to use it to benefit me. I just had a very clean house, a productive work life and a serious craigslist shopping addiction. But my moodiness did eventually get out of control, like you said, with “arguments over inconceivable nothingness and emotional roller coasters with twists and turns that wouldn’t stop”. My poor husband. He is bipolar too, so that obviously complicates this further. I am pretty much making his life hell. But why I posted was to offer another example of medication during pregnancy. My doctor has me on respiridone. I forget to take it alot and have stopped taking it a few times (and am still seriously considering stopping it). But I don’t feel any benefit from it. I have never noticed any benefit from any drug, however. I have only been diagnosed a few years and only sober for a year or so of that time. What really helps me is having an awesome cognitive-behavioral therapist. She gives me a lot of information from DBT and helps me come up with different plans of action to combat my moodiness and impulsivity. Its a lot of hard work. I have to be constantly aware of my mood level, I keep charts and try to track my symptoms. I keep lists of crisis interventions and activites to take my mind of things. But that doesn’t mean I’m a peach to be around. I function well at work and out of the home but I take a lot out on my husband, and this is what I’m really working on. I just think that cognitive-behavioral techniques is the best way to go during pregnancy and in life. We should learn how to cope and function in the worst of our moods, then life with meds and less mood swings will be even easier (although, like I said I have never really experienced that). But anyways, thats just my two cents.

  2. Resperidone is an excellent med. I’m sorry your not feeling any benefit from it. However it is very interesting and good information to know that your doctor felt it was safe enough to put you on it while you were pregnant. My 10 yr old daughter takes respiredone and it has worked wonders for her. She was completely unmanageable with mania, rages, & ODD until her dr prescribed this. Now she is like a new child. All medications work differently for different people. Because each of our bodies chemistry is made up differently we absorb and react differently to each substance. It’s great to have added information. Thank you for your input.

  3. Thank you for sharing your experience!
    I’m taking Lamotrigine (anti-epaleptic / mood stabilizer) now and it’s the only thing that’s worked for me (I was on Lithium for a while and list of other ‘try it’ meds that were nightmares). I’ve been taking it for around 8 years. The risks of severe birth defects, deformities and infant mortality, etc. with Lamotrigine are so high that my last doc (who was a wonderful woman totally informed on the risks and memorized all her patients’ pregnancy experiences) said that if I had an accidental pregnancy, she would counsel I consider a therapeutic abortion. I was informed at that time that should I want to become pregnant and have a baby free from meds-related birth defects, I’d likely have to start weening off my meds 3 months before I wanted to start trying. With a full-term pregnancy, I could be off meds for 12-15 months, conceivably, however long it takes to get pregnant. I do anticipate it would be hell. My old doctor and current doctor have both said that I have to weigh the risks off the meds vs on the meds.

    So I’m at an impasse. Do I risk uncontrolled mania/ depression and the nuclear fallout from that, or do I maintain my stability and knowingly expose a fetus to chemicals that could make him/her chronically ill? Sadly, neither option is something I’m comfortable with. My husband really wants kids but is loving and accepting that our situation poses unique and potentially dangerous scenarios, either way. He’s letting me decide, ultimately, if pregnancy is the right choice for me.

    That’s why I’m grateful to anyone who’s been there and might be willing to share their experience changing meds or going off meds for pregnancy.

    Thanks for your insight.

  4. i was on respiridone for awhile (not related to pregnancy though)and i had to quit taking it because it wasn’t doing what i needed it to do and it made me lactate! it was the weirdest thing.

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