Bipolar disorder in pregnancy

bipolar disorder in pregnancy

Bipolar disorder used to be called manic depression.  It involves periods where you may feel high (mania) and also very low (depression).  Bipolar disorder is much less common than depression and anxiety, affecting between 1-3% of women, but it is very serious and needs to be identified and managed early – especially bipolar disorder in pregnancy.

What triggers an episode of bipolar disorder?

Significant life events, like becoming pregnant, can trigger episodes of bipolar disorder.  If you have a family history, or have experienced bipolar episodes in the past, being pregnant does increase your risk of developing the condition at this time . These are all good reasons to know about the condition, what to look for and where to go for help.

What are the symptoms of bipolar disorder?

Symptoms of mania include having lots of energy and being overactive, and little need for sleep.  It can also lead people to be less inhibited. This means you may have increased sex drive, spending habits, racing thoughts and speech, more inclined to take risks or be more reckless.  

Manic episodes can also affect your thinking.  This can cause you to have grandiose ideas (like being famous, invincible, knowledgable about everything), cause hallucinations (seeing or hearing people/things that are not there), have unrealistic thoughts (delusions) or perceive that everyone is against you (paranoia).  For some, this impact on your thinking can lead you to feel excessively worried about the pregnancy or worried about whether you will be a good mother.  It is important to view these thoughts in the context of the condition and can explain why you think and feel this way – even though it is not realistic.

Alternatively, depression symptoms are the opposite.  Like depression, generally this can lead you to have low energy, low interest and low self-esteem.  Your thinking about yourself and the world is generally negative. You may feel more sensitive to criticism and you are likely to have little interest to take part in normal activities, such as being with friends and family or doing things you used to enjoy.  Getting through the day can be a struggle if you are depressed, hence your activity level is significantly reduced. This is markedly different to the manic phase of the condition.

Treatment of bipolar disorder during pregnancy

Bipolar disorder is a medical condition that requires treatment and management from a qualified medical health-trained professional. This could be a general practitioner with expertise in the area, or a psychiatrist.  As with other mental health conditions, identifying and getting help early is essential – especially for more serious mental health conditions like bipolar disorder.

Find out about options for managing bipolar during pregnancy, or how to seek professional help.

Download our Bipolar Disorder in Pregnancy Fact Sheet