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Bipolar Disorder and Pregnancy

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Author: Jen Brister

Women who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder are often hesitant to have children. Not only is there fear of transferring the disorder on to the child, there is a concern about mom being off her meds during pregnancy. Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder which causes it's victims to suffer from devastating depression and horrifying mania. The hormones which are a normal part of pregnancy can be very scary for moms with bipolar. In addition to dealing with their illness and the normal stresses of pregnancy, women who suffer from bipolar disorder have to think about the safety of their fetus as they take medication which can save their own lives.

Pregnant women with bipolar disorder are seven times more likely to have a hospital admission for their illness than other women. Careful planning is needed for women with bipolar who plan to get pregnant. Since sudden changes in medication can increase side effects and relapse of illness, most women have to find a doctor to work with them on which medications are safe to take during pregnancy. It's advisable to have both your prenatal physician and your psychologist present for at least one meeting to discuss medication alternatives.

The preferred medications for use during pregnancy are Lithium, Haldol and Thorazine because they pose minimal risks for the fetus. Since lithium is a popular drug for bipolar disorder, it is common for pregnant women to remain on lithium for the duration of the pregnancy. Women on other medications may even choose to switch to lithium because of the minimal risks.

With continued use of lithium for bipolar moms during pregnancy, lithium levels must be monitored on a regular basis. They must also be careful to stay hydrated so that they do not become toxic. If a mother who is on lithium chooses to breastfeed, the baby must have their blood monitored for lithium levels.

Depakote is another popular medication for bipolar disorder. Since it has been proven to be harmful for fetuses, many doctors recommend that women change medications before they become pregnant. For women who choose to continue taking Depakote during pregnancy, they should also take vitamin K to help prevent certain birth defects associated with the medication.

It is advisable for women who are on any second tier bipolar medications switch to another type of medication before or during pregnancy.

Much more research is needed to find out which medications work best for pregnant women with bipolar disorder. This difficult issue will be studied by physicians for years to come. Many women with bipolar disorder are tempted to go completely off of their medication during pregnancy so that they know their fetus will be safe and drug free. However, this decision can be devastating for the entire family if the mom to be falls victim to severe mood swings during her pregnancy.

Some women like to use alternative or non pharmaceutical medications during pregnancy to manage their bipolar disorder. While therapy can help minimize symptoms, it is not proven to be an effective cure for bipolar disorder. It can, however, help with a pregnant mom getting the right amount of sleep and improve her functioning in daily situations.

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