- Be sure you want to be pregnant. This may sound redundant, but pregnancy is not synonymous with a child. Just because you want a child does not mean that you want a pregnancy. There is no way to predict what symptoms may present during pregnancy. If you have been pregnant previously, your next pregnancy may follow a similar path or it could be much different than the one that came before. People with bipolar will face certain limitations and risks that the general population will not. This makes pregnancy tricky and overwhelming for women with bipolar. Surely, the reward exists, though.
- Be sure that you want to breastfeed. This is certainly not a deal breaker but woman that hope to breastfeed cannot return to their medication treatment until the breastfeeding has concluded. Pregnancy is extremely personal and the thought of including many people, especially professionals, may seem uncomfortable. This consultation becomes even more of a necessity for people that have bipolar
- Consult your OB/GYN. This professional is always a great starting point when it comes to decisions about pregnancy. Start early. Many recommend that you begin taking prenatal vitamins for months before you try to conceive. Discuss pros and cons as well as the risks and rewards of pregnancy for you. Be honest and open about your mental health. Work to understand what is expected of you. Your doctor will make recommendations and it is crucial that you follow.
- Consult your prescriber. You are likely in the majority of people with bipolar that use some type or some combination of medications to treat your symptoms. Like with your OB/GYN, talk to your prescriber about your intentions to become pregnant while they are still intentions. Certain medications used on people with bipolar have been linked to birth defects and complications. Do not stop your medications on your own. Your prescriber will work to wean you from potentially harmful medications. Be sure to do your own research as well. Different prescribers have different levels of comfort prescribing medications during pregnancy.
Working with a team and being clear with your hopes and expectations makes the situation more likely a success.
Among the general population, 50% of all pregnancies are unplanned. That rate is likely higher in those with bipolar disorder as the impulsivity, poor decision making and increased interest in sex during manic episodes increase the likelihood of pregnancy. An unplanned pregnancy forces you to react rather than be prepared. As always, if you are not looking to become pregnant, some form of contraceptive should be utilized.
The risks mentioned previously, grow exponentially with unplanned pregnancies because the prenatal care has not been in place and your medications may be harmful to the baby. With the increased danger, it is essential that you act quickly and decisively.