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Bipolar disorder and pregnancy

  • By Dr. T Deepa Porkodi

Bipolar Disorder, also known as Manic-Depressive Disorder is a mental illness characterized by episodes of severe maniacal attacks followed by severe depression.

Bipolar disorder has a strong relation with pregnancy. A lot of research needs to be still done on this link though.

People with bipolar disorder show an increase in their symptoms during pregnancy. This disorder is generally treated by medications that are risky to be used while one is pregnant. Sudden withdrawal of these medications during pregnancy can also be harmful.

So, it is critical to let your doctor know if you are suffering from bipolar disorder and you are planning to get pregnant or are pregnant already.

There are very few studies that have been done on bipolar disorder and pregnancy. Hence, enough is not known about the risks of untreated bipolar disorder or the risks and benefits of medications during pregnancy, and the factors that lead to relapse during pregnancy are also not clear.

Bipolar disorder worsens during pregnancy. Pregnant women with bipolar disorder have seven times the risk of hospital admissions compared to would be mothers who do not have bipolar disorder.

The effects of bipolar medications on pregnancy have also not been well studied. Some women take medications throughout pregnancy and go on to have healthy babies. In some women though, the babies develop serious birth defects like neural tube defects, heart defects, or neurobehavioral problems.

A study in 2007 traced findings on 89 women through their pregnancy and a year after their delivery. It was found that during the period when medications were stopped, i.e., 6 months before conception and 12 weeks after conception, the women had twice the risk of relapse and 50% more chances of recurrence of symptoms within 2 weeks.

However, if bipolar disorder is left untreated during pregnancy, there is another set of problems that could possibly affect the baby. These include poor nutrition, poor prenatal care, alcohol and tobacco abuse, and trouble with attachment.

The key is to change medications or to stop medications gradually under the guidance of your doctor. Stopping them abruptly can only worsen the condition.