My little sister had a baby boy on August 27, 2012. Watching him grow the last few months has been amazing, and it has stimulated a lot of thinking because I (tentatively) plan on becoming a mother.
I’ve always wanted to be a mother, ever since I was a young child. Family has been an extremely important part of my life, and it’s almost as if I couldn’t imagine not having a kid of my own. In high school, before I had any idea of what real life is like, I wanted to have a kid as soon as possible. Luckily, I didn’t act on that–what a disaster that would have been.
I have learned a lot since graduating from high school and one of the things I have learned is that my illness is a major undertaking, 365 days a year, seven days a week. I have not been very stable since being diagnosed five years ago. Granted, I’ve had a lot more success in the past year, but I am nowhere where I’d like to be. I just can’t have a kid right now; it’s not practical.
I realize that my health is pretty fragile at this point; no time to bring a baby into this world. I don’t know how I would strategize medication, and I’m a little scared to even try. If I’m on less medication, how will I make sure I can work every day and be healthy enough to grow a healthy baby? I also worry about what I’m going to be like as a mother. I can be really emotionally unstable at times and I don’t want my child to be surrounded by yelling or have a mother that’s too tired and depressed to nurture them properly.
My mother has major depression and spent a lot of the time when we were growing up in her room, napping. The pain of not being able to have an open, honest, tender relationship with my mother, largely due to her illness, has stuck with me. Some people would probably tell me not to have a child and sometimes I don’t blame them, because I know what it’s like to be a child without a present mother. It affects your entire life going forward whether you want it to or not. I’d like to think that the love for my child would supersede all of the pain I was feeling inside at a given moment, but maybe my mother thought the same thing.
Sometimes I think I’m putting too much pressure on myself and that it will all work itself out. Sometimes I also think that this is not going to work at all. Maybe a pregnancy might not be possible, or maybe it’s just too difficult. I try to separate myself from this issue and not get too emotionally involved to protect myself. It can be too hard to think about.
I’ve asked my therapist and psychiatrist about bipolar pregnancy briefly, and they say it is nothing I can’t do. That gives me confidence, but it is often overshadowed by doubt.
Like I said, my current strategy with pregnancy and childbearing is to just not think about it. I have at the very least a few years to get serious about planning for a child. But with my sister having a son now, people are asking me when I am going to have a baby. This is outrageous to me in many ways–I’m 24 years old. Let’s slow down. In addition, these people don’t know that I live with bipolar disorder every day and have enough issues with keeping the stress at bay as it is. I am looking to grow emotionally in 2013, but with my condition, I don’t think that having a baby should be taken lightly or be a snap decision. I’ve seen a lot of girls my age take the plunge and have a child, and it’s a life changer. And most of them don’t have any kind of chronic illness.
What the Research Shows
In an article on bipolar pregnancy by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the organization notes that pregnancy and delivery often increase the symptoms of bipolar disorder–just what I’m worried about happening. In fact, according to the article, pregnant women or new mothers with bipolar have a sevenfold higher risk of hospital admission, and a twofold higher risk for a recurrent episode, compared with those who have never delivered a child or who are not pregnant. Studies also make it clear that discontinuing medication during pregnancy have increased risks of a recurrent episode.
NAMI wants women with bipolar to know that they must carefully plan. Planning should start well before conception.
Luckily for me, the article states that Lithium and the first-generation antipsychotics like Haldol and Thorazine consistently show minimal risks to the fetus. Some anticonvulsants like Depakote and Tegretol, however, have proven harmful to fetuses, possibly causing birth defects.
Studies also show that one mood stabilizer is better for the fetus than the use of multiple mood stabilizing medications.
The use of Lithium during pregnancy can be life saving for the mother. While taking Lithium both during pregnancy and without child, it is important for a woman to stay hydrated to prevent Lithium toxicity. Careful monitoring of Lithium levels must be done throughout pregnancy, but if you take Lithium like me, you’re no stranger to getting your blood drawn.
The only thing I don’t think I want to do is breast feed. I know it’s great for the baby, but in my opinion, not when you‘re on Lithium. If the mother is on Lithium and breast feeds, the baby’s blood needs to be monitored for Lithium levels. That just seems like too much to me. I rather go the formula route, personally.
Zyprexa is part of the second-generation antipsychotics, which also includes Seroquel and Risperdal. Few studies have been done on pregnancy and second-generation antipsychotics, especially Seroquel and Risperdal. However, studies in Zyprexa show, so far, that it does not cause birth defects. I like that news, but feel a little concerned with using multiple medications during pregnancy.
One of the downsides to Zyprexa without being pregnant is weight gain, so you can imagine what health risks might be involved with Zyprexa during pregnancy. Gestational diabetes, weight gain, and high blood pressure can occur with use of olanzapine.
What I‘m Seeing “Out There”
Different websites will give you varying information. A WebMD article lists Lithium as possibly causing heart defects, and is not recommended during the first three months of pregnancy. If you’re considering getting pregnant I would grab information from multiple sources (research articles, books). In addition, consult an OB-GYN and your psychiatrist, and build a team to help you learn more about having a baby.
I want to hear from you…
- Do you think that women with bipolar disorder should have children?
- Would you take medication while pregnant?
- Are you a woman with bipolar that has had a child? Please tell me more!
- What are your thoughts on this article?
You can comment here or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find me on Twitter @KatGalaxy. Thanks for reading!