Should I have a baby if I have Bipolar disorder?
When I was growing up, I had no interest in having children. I wanted to live freely and at some level (as an only child myself for many years) I selfishly didn’t want the attention I got, no matter how small, to be shown to someone else.
As I matured, became a nanny and found the love of my life, my thoughts of having children completely changed. Now my urge to have a baby is stronger than ever, but was it the right thing for me to do with a diagnosis of a mental illness?
Many years ago I had briefly spoken to a few of the revolving door of therapists I had about remaining on medication if I were to get pregnant. But, I never seemed to get a straight answer. I heard a lot of “Let’s cross that road when we get there” or “here are some resources for you.” When all I really wanted were answers.
Finally, it was time to “cross that road”. With the wedding quickly approaching the amount of research I did drastically increased but I still found no real answers. Every article and case study I found had more conflicting information than the last. The more research I did, the more intimidated and frighten I became. Solely, my own research wasn’t going to cut it.
Three months before the wedding I made appointments with my psychiatrist, therapist and OBGYN to discuss the little research I had found. I was able to get an appointment with an OBGYN, maybe my soon to be OBGYN, the next week. As for my psychiatrist and therapist, I was unable to get an appointment with either for over a month (rant on that later to come).
So, it was off to see the OBGYN. I was so nervous as my soon to be husband and I pulled up to the medical offices. This doctor, whom I had never met, would have significant power over our decision to have a baby.
We checked-in and waited. There were at least five people called in ahead of us, and I was about to burst into tears of frustration. My anxiety was getting the best of me. Just as my eyes were about to overflow with tears, the nurse called us in.
We waited in the cold, bleached exam room for about the same amount of time as we had the waiting room. We had both been silent until we heard the knock on the door and the doctor came in. She sat down and immediately began asking questions. She fired them off one after the other, and we answered back without a breath. We could tell that she was very straight and to the point, a no bull-shit kind of gal. Just what I had been looking for.
Then, it was her turn to talk. She told us that she has had many patients that had had mental illnesses in the past, and she has always strongly recommended AGAINST going off of ANY mood stabilizers when a woman is pregnant. She continued, “There is a stronger chance of you having a psychotic break than having a health issue arise with the baby. If a mother experiences a psychotic break, it will often result in a low birth weight, preterm labor and in extreme cases stillbirth. However, if you stay on the medications there is an elevated risk that your child would have a cleft palate*.”
I felt so much relief. I had been terrified that I was going to be told that I needed to go off of my medications altogether. I had gone off of my medications more recently in the past few years to make a dumb point to my husband, and I was literally suicidal within two days, it was my teenage years all over again. Obviously, I wanted to avoid that at all cost. Some people may think of medication as a crutch but in actuality when in proper dosage it stabilizes a chemical imbalance within your brain.
I do believe that anyone with a mental illness, mother or father, should do the research to help them decide on the best option for them, but medical professionals should be consulted before making any final decisions, and that’s what we did.
My husband and I, after what seemed like a lifetime, finally decided that in fact, we were going to try to have a baby. After weighing all of the pros and cons we came to the conclusion that I could stay on my medication while pregnant because the risk to our baby would be little greater than someone without this chemical imbalance.
This is the journey I am openly sharing with you. I invite you to open your mind and your heart to diversity. This is our story.
*It was later confirmed by a pharmacist that specialized in mental health medications that the percentage of risk of the cleft palate was raised by .05% above the normal level of .1%.
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