There is no crystal clear roadmap for women who are bipolar and pregnant. That's because few studies have been done on bipolar disorder and pregnancy. Not enough is known about the risks of untreated bipolar disorder or the risks and benefits of medications. And the factors that lead to relapse during pregnancy are not entirely clear.
The symptoms of bipolar disorder, however, can worsen during pregnancy. Pregnant women or new mothers with bipolar disorder have seven times the risk of hospital admissions compared with pregnant women who do not have bipolar disorder.
A 2007 study on bipolar and pregnancy has shed further light. And it has called into question a common belief that pregnancy may have a protective effect for women with bipolar disorder. The study followed 89 women through pregnancy and one year after delivery. When stopping bipolar medications six months before conception to 12 weeks after, women had:
- Twice the risk of relapse.
- A 50% risk of recurrence within just two weeks, if they stopped suddenly. (Women who had unplanned pregnancies were more likely to stop at once.)
- Bipolar symptoms throughout 40% of the pregnancy -- or more than four times that experienced by women who continued their bipolar medications.
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