How did you deal with being bipolar and being pregnant,did you stay on any meds?

We are thinking of having a baby soon,and wanted to the real life experiences of those who have pregnant and diagnosed with bipolar? Was it planned,and what were the biggest obstacles?

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First, let me congratulate you on deciding to start a family. Having a baby is a wonderful, rewarding, life changing experience. It can also be overwhelming, frightening, exhausting, and downright frustrating.  But I would place more emphasis on the first part of that than the second.

I was not diagnosed with bipolar when I was pregnant with any of my three children, but I had been diagnosed with severe depression. I also had severe post-partum depression after my second child was born and was not expecting to find myself pregnant for a third time. We had decided that we were only going to have two children, due to the fact that my second son was so ill during his first year. Imagine our surprise when he was seventeen months old and I found out there was a third one on the way!!!!

I can honestly say that my first reaction to the idea of having another child was not excitement. It was dismay. I was, to say the least, extremely upset that I was pregnant again, seeing as how I had not yet recovered mentally from having the second child. I was still very, very depressed and had no idea how I would handle having a third child so close to the second – they were only going to be two years apart in age.

I was not on any type of psychiatric medications when I became pregnant, although I probably should have been put on something after my second child was born. Nobody had caught the tremendous mood swings I was having and everyone chalked them up to exhaustion because the baby never slept. At one point, I can remember wanting to pick him up by his feet and smash his head into a wall, just to get some peace and quiet. Thank God, I never acted on these impulses and I always was able to realize that I needed someone to take him or to just put him into his crib and walk away until these urges had passed. If I had been under the care of a good psychiatrist and counselor at the time, I might have had better coping mechanisms, but I am grateful that I had enough presence of mind not to hurt my child.

After about three months of my third pregnancy had passed, I ended up calling my obstetrician and telling him that I needed something for my depression. I was at the point where I was suicidal and I was afraid I would hurt myself and the baby. He prescribed a very low dosage of Prozac. I asked my husband what he would do if he was the one trying to make the decision whether to go onto medication while pregnant and his answer was that he wouldn’t do it, but that it was up to me.

I chose to take the Prozac and I took it from the time I was four months pregnant until well after my son was born.  I was told by my obstetrician that he highly recommended against my breastfeeding because Prozac comes through in breast milk and I took his advice. I found it easier to bottle feed anyway, because then all of the adults in my life were able to help me with feeding the new baby.

As far as obstacles, I would say that the largest obstacle I have encountered in the whole parenting business is not having enough patience. My disorder causes me to be extremely irritable and impatient and there are times when I snap at my children when they have done nothing wrong. But I always try to apologize when I realize that I have snapped at them irrationally and I think the fact that I am willing to admit that I am not a perfect parent and say “I’m sorry” actually increases the bond I have with my kids. All of my boys are wonderfully empathic, intelligent children. My mother has told me many times that what she thinks I did right with my kids was to always be very physically affectionate. I don’t know if that is true, but I feel like I did something right, because people tell me (sincerely, I think) that my boys are very respectful and well-behaved.

It is awesome that you realize that your bipolar disorder might be an issue when you are considering getting pregnant. It is not just an issue during pregnancy, but will also affect how you raise your child. It is obviously not impossible to be a good parent if you have a mood disorder. And I believe that having a parent with a mental illness who is knowledgeable and proactive in treating their illness will create empathy and awareness in their children. My middle son tells me that he doesn’t “see” my bipolar disorder. I tell him it’s because he has never known anything different, but that it’s always here. He just knows me as “Mom.” Having children has been a wonderful incentive for me to remain in treatment and to stay on my drug regimen. It benefits not only them, but me as well.

Good luck and I wish you the best as you begin life as prospective parents!

4 thoughts on “How did you deal with being bipolar and being pregnant,did you stay on any meds?

  1. Thank you for sharing your experience. I do wonder how different it would have been if you had been referred to a Perinatal psychiatry service so that your medication options could have been explained, coordination of existing services could have occurred around pregnancy, the birth itself and to fit around the needs of your entire family allowing you to parent the way you need to parent.

  2. Donna,

    Those are very good questions. Because I hid my depression and disturbing thoughts so well, I was not diagnosed until I started acting very manic and doing things that were simply unacceptable.

    I believe that if I had been referred to someone who could have handled the pregnancy and medication situation who knew what the risks and benefits were, it would have been a great help. I would not have felt as if the weight of the decision rested solely on me and it’s possible that we could have gotten some family services and maybe some respite care for the older two children.

    It took me a long time after I was diagnosed to begin to parent “properly” and I still struggle with being able to follow through on things I tell the kids I am going to do. I have agoraphobia along with the bipolar and severe anxiety, so I now do not make promises until I am actually ready to go out the door with keys in hand, because if I plan something for several days from now, inevitably the day and time will arrive and I will not want to go. My youngest son has mild autism and he is very literal. He gets very upset when I do not keep my promises, but is learning that that is part of who I am.

    I think those first few years are so important and I was very lucky to have a supportive husband and parents who were very involved and willing to take the kids when I needed to get inpatient psychiatric help and afterwards when I needed a break. Not everyone is so blessed. I believe that having these supportive people in my life has made it possible for me to parent with this mood disorder in a way that is not destructive to my children.

    Thanks for your comment. I would highly recommend that if you are pregnant, you discuss all of your options with your doctor.

    Chelle

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