I have a mental health condition and am a bloody good mum and partner.
I was diagnosed with Bipolar Affective Disorder when I was 21, after a deep depression, then a bombastic manic episode that still makes me blush with shame. Ten years of trying different combinations of medications as well as establishing a real work-life balance means I now appear to be “relatively normal”.
For more information about managing bipolar disorder in pregnancy click here
Having lived with a diagnosis of Bipolar for sixteen years, and previously endured many episodes of depression, I knew that postnatal depression was on the cards for me. I knew the potential dangers to mother, baby and partner. In the planning stages I sought out a psychiatrist who has specialist knowledge in bipolar medication and pregnancy. It took a year to adjust my medication to a suitable level to ensure I was on a stable footing before proceeding with pregnancy.
For more information about assessing your personal risk of developing emotional and/or mental health problems before having a baby, click here
The complications and the regular issues with pre-pregnancy, pregnancy, birth and postnatally all contributed in their special way to my experience of PND. My partner and I undertook IVF treatment; I injected myself with hormones and we attended far too many invasive doctors’ appointments. A few disappointments were thrown in for good measure. Half way through my pregnancy I had a colossal bleed and was taken to hospital in an ambulance, with no pants on! I can laugh a little now, but we were devastated to think we were losing our baby. I had two large bleeds and stayed in hospital for a total of one month, then four months on bed rest at home. I ceased work immediately.
After being diagnosed with preeclampsiaI had a caesarean birth one month early and we were told that our son, Tomas, would be admitted to the Special Care Nursery (SCN). I saw him for a minute and didn’t see him again for 24 hours as I was in post-operative madness. After a week in hospital we commuted daily to the SCN to feed our son through a tube in his nose. He weighed 2.6 kilos. We didn’t have a great deal of support around us and I was in physical and emotional agony.
When Tomas was two months old I realised I hadn’t told him I loved him. So I tried out an “I love you” and was surprised that it felt like a lie. I was having frequent vivid ghoulish daydreams about Tomas dying in awful ways, or me having a car accident. It wasn’t that I didn’t love Tomas but it just wasn’t that “as soon as you hold him…” feeling that everyone told me I would have. It took me quite a few months before I started to feel that “I’m so in love with my baby” feeling.
For more information about bonding with your baby click here
Four months postnatally I saw my regular psychiatrist he asked me the usual probing questions. My appetite was gone; I wasn’t socialising or accepting any help; I was crying a lot; I didn’t want to shower; I had some uncharacteristic fits of anger towards my partner; I didn’t feel confident caring for Tomas properly. My psychiatrist prescribed a monitored, gentle introduction of Zoloft to my existing medication regime. Within three weeks, I slowly started noticing the good things again. It put a lot of strain on my partner to help me through a depression as well as being a sleepless parent of a newborn. He dazzled me with his support.
For more information about supporing your partner who is experiencng emotional or mental health problems click here
COPE Facts about Bipolar Disorder and it’s management in pregnancy and following
- Bipolar disorder is much less common than depression and anxiety, affecting between 1-3% of women.
- Bipolar disorder is very serious and needs to be identified and managed early – especially in pregnancy or after having a baby.
- This medical condition that requires treatment and management from a qualified medical health-trained professional, like a GP with expertise in the area or a psychiatrist.
- For more information about bipolar disorder and it’s safe and effective management in pregnancy and following birth visit www.cope.org.au.