I was recently interviewed for an upcoming production that will address bipolar disorder and pregnancy. As a result, I thought it would be an appropriate time to share my thoughts on bipolar disorder and pregnancy. The pressing question is can a woman with bipolar disorder have a successful pregnancy and postpartum period?

I believe the answer to this question is yes but there seems to be debate over whether or not a woman with bipolar disorder should even become pregnant let alone have a successful pregnancy.

In my opinion, the decision to become pregnant and have children is a decision that is up to the woman with bipolar disorder. Of course, I believe she should consult with her physician, who hopefully has experience in mental illness related to childbearing, specifically in treating women with bipolar disorder. She should also take in the consideration the level of social, emotional and practical support available to her.

I do not believe she should be told “do not get pregnant” but rather she should be told “if you choose to get pregnant, be sure to have a comprehensive plan in place to address prevention, treatment and recovery.” It seems the better prepared a woman is, the better the outcome will be.

But even when the woman has everything in place, a relapse can still occur. For this reason, I believe having a plan in place to address a relapse, can help her become stabilized more quickly. The treatment plan usually involves medication, therapy, and support.

Often women are reluctant to take medication during pregnancy or when they are breastfeeding. I can certainly understand why but there is always a risk/benefit analysis when it comes to taking medication. It is for this reason that a pregnant bipolar woman work closely with her physician before, during and after the pregnancy. I also suggest consulting with her pharmacist, who has tremendous knowledge about medications, to determine what is the best option during her pregnancy and after the baby is born. In my opinion, the USA can definitely learn from the United Kingdom in addressing the support needs of postpartum women.

Of course, there is always risk in pregnancy, whether or not there is a history of mental illness. For me, personally, I did not have a prior history of mental illness yet I was still stricken with postpartum psychosis, a rare but serious mental illness related to childbearing. Although postpartum psychosis can strike any woman after the birth of a baby, there is a much greater risk for women, who have a history of bipolar disorder.

In my case, I would eventually be given the diagnosis of bipolar disorder, postpartum onset. Thankfully, after many trials, tribulations and attempts at treatment, I have been in remission for six years. Unfortunately, I have not been able to have a successful subsequent pregnancy. Yes, as difficult as the illnesses have been, I have no regrets and would do it all again. The blessings of motherhood and having my son in my life have been worth it all.

Author's Bio: 

Jennifer has unique insight into mental health as a recovered mom herself. She overcame postpartum psychosis, a life threatening mental illness, which she was struck with when her son was eight weeks old. She has focused her efforts on being a mental health advocate in the area of perinatal mental health in order to help others experiencing mental illness related to childbearing. She strives to increase awareness, education and support of mental health issues related to childbearing. She also focuses on increasing awareness, education and support of mental health issues, in general.

As a Volunteer Area Coordinator for Postpartum Support International, Jennifer has provided emotional, practical and informational support to mothers and families experiencing mental illnesses related to childbearing. Postpartum Support International (PSI) is a nonprofit organization founded in 1987 with the mission to increase awareness, prevention and treatment of mental health issues related to childbearing. Jennifer also has experience as a postpartum support and education consultant, a certified postpartum doula and a speaker on mental health issues.

Jennifer has various media experience including her personal story being published in the February 2002 issue of Glamour Magazine resulting in a guest appearance on CNN’s The Point. She was also interviewed for an article appearing in the December 2002 issue of Psychology Today. Jennifer is a member of the National Perinatal Association, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Mental Health America, The Marcé Society, the National Association of Mothers’ Centers and Postpartum Support International. Jennifer is also a member of the International Association for Women’s Mental Health.