So You’re Bipolar, and You Want to Have a Baby
One of my friends asked a few weeks ago if I would potentially be able to give a friend of hers pointers on surviving bipolar and pregnancy at the same time. While I never heard from the second degree individual, it’s been on my mind a fair bit. And then, what came across my Twitter feed? Why, it’s a pamphlet on just that subject from Bipolar UK!
Bipolar Disorder, Pregnancy, and Childbirth
The long and the short is, and the same as I would have told my friend’s friend — it’s an absolute and utter crapshoot. There is no magic bullet, and if anything, it’s accepting that things are likely to be a lot worse for awhile. You could be a perfectly mentally sound person and end up having a horrible time, because hrm… oh. You’re carrying a parasite, and your hormones are waaay over the place.
For me, my first pregnancy was pretty easy on the whole. I had the usual array of weird physical pains, but my mood was remarkably stable as compared to ‘normal’. The afters, however… I am not sure that I went as far as postpartum psychosis (which, I know now, is a 1 in 4 shot for a bipolar woman rather than less than 1 in 1,000 births), or ‘merely’ postpartum depression atop ‘normal’ depression… which is also a 1 in 4 chance for a bipolar woman, meaning that 50%~ of bipolar women have issues. Eeep.
It was that after that finally pushed me into getting some help. You see, I grew up in the States in an environment that reinforced that I was apparently making up any and all health concerns I had. There is also a vast amount of stigma, which as those of us with diagnoses know, discourages anyone from finding out that they’re ‘wrong’ or ‘dangerous’ or whatever buzzword is used to keep us quiet as a lot. I had been in a job where I would have lost my job had I had a mental illness; I know this is a common complaint, but it was doubly scary for those of us working military intelligence. Everything was stacked against me, to include my own biases, which meant I had to hit the bottom of rock bottom’s bottommost bottom to finally ask for help.
If you’ve been here for awhile, you know that worked out well, and I responded well to medication. We got things tweaked to something that seemed to mainly work, and then I had to throw the works into it and get pregnant again. Mind, this was done intentionally, and my psychiatry team were duly informed. I had good care from both them and the maternal psychiatry team, and honestly? I don’t think I would have risked it if the first time around hadn’t been so good. My mood wasn’t as stable this time around; I had a bad spell of depression in the March/April time frame, which made me question the wisdom of coming off of my meds. I pulled through by being able to be honest to myself, but had I not had a need for home birth due to anxiety issues, I probably would have stayed on my meds. Thankfully, we don’t intend to have any more children, so I shouldn’t have to worry about that choice again.
Pregnancy is a hard enough time filled with all sorts of decisions for anyone going through it. There is less to do with right or wrong, but rather, what is best for each individual going through the time and after. If it’s something that is important to you as an individual and you have a mental illness, then do make sure to have a care plan. Do make sure to work with your doctors and psychiatrists if you are fortunate enough to have such. Growing up in the States meant I was one of the many without much in the way of appreciable health care, so I can appreciate not everyone has access to the care they need. But don’t think you should deny yourself parenthood because you’re mentally ill. You’re just as ‘worthy’ of parenthood as anyone else.
Excellent post, Raeyn!
I didn’t have bipolar during my pregnancy; my bipolar one disorder was actually triggered due to childbirth (known as postpartum onset bipolar disorder), so I feel that anyone who knows she has bipolar before actually getting pregnant is fortunate to know that she has it first.
A book about bipolar and pregnancy was published a few years back titled “Bipolar and Pregnant” that got mostly good reviews (I’d check out its positive and negative reviews if the summary sounds useful to you, though!)
Here’s the link: http://www.amazon.com/Bipolar-Pregnant-Planning-Parenting-Depression-ebook/dp/B001BS2IGO/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1411251417&sr=1-1&keywords=bipolar+and+pregnant
Hope this is somewhat helpful and that it makes sense – I write this while my two hyper girls are distracting me to no end! 🙂
Thanks for the book share, and experience share! I think my bipolar triggered in my teens, but I ‘coped’ for a long time without knowing or having any help I got lots of random applause through my pregnancy from the health care professionals for having managed that long. Managed yeah, but not really lived. It’s nice to live now. 😀
What a great post! I’d like to reblog but I’m on my mobile. When I get on my computer, I will. I hope this reaches lots of women who are struggling with the “should I/shouldn’t I” conundrum.
Thanks! Certainly, something near and dear to so many of our hearts. 🙂
Thank you for this post. During my pregnancy I was diagnosed and treated for depression. I wasn’t diagnosed bipolar until my son was two. The psychiatrist who diagnosed me as bipolar type II assured me that I could have a second child if I so chose. She said there were safe medications that I could take. We ultimately decided not to have a second child because I had my hands full with coping with my symptoms of bipolar type II, parenting a bright challenging high energy son, and working part time.
Energy was definitely one of those huge considerations for us. We’re not young-young, and definitely not getting younger! I’m glad it’s worked out so far, but it definitely emphasizes for us that 2 is it.
Every family is unique. I first wanted two, but my husband was happy with one, and our son was a handful when he was young. Our son suffers from migraines and must have a quiet and dark house when he gets a migraine. Very difficult to achieve with siblings.
You have my empathy — migraines are awful.
Thank you for sharing this…this issue has been on my mind a lot lately. I’ve been told I’m extremely high risk, and every aspect of a future pregnancy will have to be planned to the nth degree.I love how you say that we are just as “worthy” on parenthood as anyone else…these words really stuck with me 🙂
Thank you for your kind words, friend! 🙂 Yes, one definitely feels like they have to hop through all sorts of hoops, but at the end, it’s such a relief to have made it through. It also helps to be honest with oneself in every possible way. There’s always that niggle in the back of the brain that tries to insist you cannot complain ’cause you did this to yourself, but pfft to that. It’s not like the brain is going to magically relent on being a jerk, yanno?