Bipolar Disorder & Pregnancy: What You Need to Know

I went to my OBGYN today and had my annual exam, and all went well. It was the wait to get behind that door that led to the nurses station and patient rooms that was the most difficult.  Being finally seen by the doc! I dread it a lot, but not always. New mothers with their newborns or little babies, cuddling, comforting them and all smiles. The diaper bags with bottles of milk. And oh, the way babies are drawn to me! They grin ear to ear without fail! I am not being narcissistic, this is truth! Haha! Then there are several pregnant women who have yet to give birth. Its so weird to be in a room full of pregnant women, and be ME. I’m going to tell you the reason why.

newborn-mother-hand-pa

As a happily married, young, 28 year old woman, I’m in the age group where people typically begin families. Some younger women in my family have already had their first child, and some more than one. I even know of people I graduated high school with that already have multiple children. I, however, am not one of those women.

In September of 2011 at age 26, I made a strong and difficult decision. A decision so big, that it would change the entire course of my life. I chose to have a tubal ligation. I had to be at the hospital at 7 a.m. and surgery was at 8 a.m. I recall when my doc. arrived. He asked me if I was sure that this was what I wanted to do, and I said most definitely, yes…It was an outpatient surgery, leaving only a tiny scar under my belly button. I had to change bandages and keep the area sterile for awhile, and take it very, very easy for a few days. The pain wasn’t too bad.

Why??? Is the reaction I typically get. That’s exactly what my Gyno. said to me the day I went in for a consultation. He asked me just how many babies I had had in my life, and I told him zero. That’s when he seemed a little hesitant. I told him that I did not want to have any children at all in my lifetime because I was on several psychiatric meds at that time for managing and maintaining a healthy life, having Bipolar disorder (I’m currently on all but one of the previous drugs) and that planning a healthy baby, and experiencing a happy pregnancy just didn’t jive with those meds. A healthy, happy baby and pregnancy didn’t jive with my mental illness either. Or the fact that its genetic, and I knew that for a fact.

As a pregnant Bipolar mom, you have to go off of all meds, or at least most as they are harmful to the unborn baby. For example, Lithium can cause a type of heart defect in babies. Lithium is my rock, and was then. Going off all of your meds when you’re Bipolar means losing support for stability. This is where manic relapse can and does occur. I’d been down that road more than once. The road of destruction, mania, they call it. Losing complete control of your mind and body, doing and saying anything and everything in the world to anyone in the world as it comes…breaking the hearts and spirits of the ones that matter most, and putting the lives of both you and your loved ones in danger. Bad flashbacks. I certainly did not want to be institutionalized during my pregnancy that was supposed to be so happy and celebrated with Baby-bump photos, picking out names, and a Shower. This kind of put a damper on things… So, in summary, I learned that getting pregnant would bring immediate hardship, and long endured hardship if done as instructed for a planned baby. I figured by the time I was weaned off the meds, upon conceiving I would have already snapped. I’m not just making this up. Its real, and I tried. I couldn’t go off them.

maskThere’s also something every woman should know going into pregnancy when being Bipolar. We are far more prone to experience what is called Postpartum Psychosis. This can be lethal for both the mother and baby. The chances of experiencing this increase with each pregnancy.

“Postpartum psychosis (or puerperal psychosis) is a term that covers a group of mental illnesses with the sudden onset of psychotic symptoms following childbirth…The onset is abrupt, and symptoms rapidly reach a climax of severity. Manic and acute polymorphic forms almost always start within the first 14 days, but depressive psychosis may develop somewhat later. A typical example is for a woman to become irritable, have extreme mood swings and hallucinations, and possibly need psychiatric hospitalization.”

Source: Wikipedia

Google for more info.

Maybe you’re thinking that no Bipolar meds means a healthy baby, and only a wreck of a mom? Think again.

“When it comes to children with bipolar and adolescents who have it, they usually have one parent who has the disorder. This isn’t always the case so you want to still watch for any symptoms of bipolar in your children just in case. Children who have parents with this illness will have a risk of 15% to 30%. If both of the parents have it then the risk will be increased to 50% to 75%.”***

I just couldn’t take that chance. I could not risk falling in love with a little piece of Heaven, being the mommy, and the baby being my world…only to have it grow older and have a manic episode and wind up terrified and very likely in danger of some sort. It could possibly ruin his or her life as unexpected manias often do. I just couldn’t wait that long. So many years down the road…Its like Bipolar Disorder comes with an inside bomb that ticks over time, only waiting to go off and explode onto the hearts of the lives of the individual, and the family.
Perhaps you may see my reasoning a little better now.

Some women have babies before even receiving their own Bipolar diagnosis in life. Many women still have babies despite their mental health issues or physical. A lot of overweight women get pregnant and have babies too. Nothing is stopping anyone.  I just know in my heart that I, personally, did the right thing for myself, my husband and our family, and ultimately for my unborn children.

I am a Christian. I believe, and hope that one day when I cross through the pearly gates there will be children. My children will be there.  I don’t mean I have some waiting for me there, just that I chose not to ask God to share a few of His most precious souls that were in Heaven with Him at the time. Instead of asking God to send them down to the earth to maybe go through what happened to me and those I know of, or things similarly,  I simply said no. I made the decision to not have natural children of my own.

According to the Holy Bible, there are unborn ones in Heaven, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you…” Jeremiah 1:5.

It is the most difficult decision I have ever made. Regrets? No. Sad thoughts  at times. Today for a few moments I felt sad in the doc’s office surrounded by all these pregnant women! I won’t lie, but they are fleeting. Something this major needs to be thought through very carefully. And it was. I waited 2 years before making the move upon figuring things out.

If you are like myself and happen to be a woman who is managing Bipolar disorder and are of childbearing age, desiring children, I encourage you to live your life the best way you can for a stable, sound mind, and explore, ask questions, and most definitely do your homework and research!!! You are a high risk pregnancy! Its important for you to be educated in making these life changing decisions.  Everyone has a story. I wish the best for all of you!

In looking for images for this blog, my spirit was lifted, as the image of babies always makes me and many others smile and laugh! It was very therapeutic lol.

God bless everyone, thanks for stopping by! 🙂

~Mandi

***Stats Source/See more at: http://bipolarsymptoms.org

-Images, courtesy Google Images.

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