Bipolar Disorder and Pregnancy Aren't Necessarily A Bad Combo


Bipolar disorder (BD)—with its lows of depression and highs of hypermania—can wreak havoc on a young woman, especially if she's pregnant. But just how much of an impact does bipolar disorder have on a pregnancy? It's a question many have tried to answer, but with no concrete results.

Researchers from the Lawson Health Research Institute and Western University sought to try and bring some answers to the issue in a study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

They acknowledged the fact that bipolar disorder can cause infanticide, suicide, and that it can put women at a higher risk for hospitalization during the postpartum period. The issue however, was what it does to women during pregnancy.

Led by Dr. Verinder Sharma, researchers carried out a comprehensive review of the medical literature on the subject, seeking what was known and what needed to be better understood.

Not surprisingly, they found papers that contradicted one another, but they were able to determine that, in fact, pregnancy could have a positive impact on existing bipolar disorder. How so? They found that during pregnancy, often women with bipolar II disorder would experience their illness go into a kind of remission. That, or their episodes would be shorter, and not nearly so frequent.

Medications: The Problem

Researchers also determined that complicating the data was the use of mood stabilizer medications—women were often prescribed anti-depressants—which treat depression, and which can exacerbate symptoms of bipolar disorder. Not only that, but typically women will discontinue the medications when they learn they're pregnant, kickstarting their BD.

Dr. Sharma would like to see one or more large scale prospective studies focused strictly on the the issue of BD in pregnant women so that clean, un-tainted data can be obtained.

"There is no period in a woman's life when the risk of relapse of bipolar disorder is as high as in the postpartum period," said Dr. Sharma. "This is in sharp contrast to pregnancy, when women may experience an improvement in their symptoms. If we fail to understand the effect of pregnancy on bipolar disorder, we will fail to understand bipolar disorder."

Source: Medical News Today


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