Having a baby is a major life event for any woman. If you have bipolar disorder there are a number of additional issues that you need to consider. Luckily for women living in Wessex there are Specialist Perinatal Mental Health services covering the whole region, and if you have a diagnosis of bipolar disorder your GP, midwife or health visitor should refer you to the specialist team.
The very best time to be referred is before you become pregnant. At this point you can have an appointment for preconceptual counselling. This is where you talk through your history, your current situation, what medication you are taking and so on. This enables you to be prescribed the best medication for both you and your baby's health, and a chance to talk through other issues such as the amount of support you will have during your pregnancy and once your baby arrives. Click here to read a really helpful leaflet on Bipolar disorder in pregnancy.
Contact details for both Hampshire and Dorset Specialist Perinatal Mental Health teams are available at the bottom of this page.
If you have bipolar disorder you will need the support of your local Specialist Perinatal Mental Health team to help you throughout your pregnancy and postnatally. This is because:
Bipolar used to be known as 'manic depression', because people tend to experience extreme moods - both low (depressed), and high or excited (manic). Some women with bipolar disorder also experience psychosis (see explanation in table below). While we don't know exactly what causes bipolar, it is often inherited. Women with a family history of bipolar are more likely to develop the disorder when they're pregnant or after the baby is born.
Women with a personal history of bipolar of postpartum (puerperal) psychosis are also at greater risk of relapsing at this time. You may need admission to a Mother and Baby Unit but this will be discussed with you antenatally by your specialist team and you will get an opportunity while you are pregnant to visit your nearest unit, look around and meet the staff.
Bipolar disorder can be initially difficult to notice and/or diagnose, but some of the symptoms to look out for are:
If you have bipolar disorder you won't necessarily experience all of these symptoms. If you are experiencing these symptoms yourself or notice them in a woman who is pregnant or recently had a baby seek urgent assistance from your GP, local Specialist Perinatal Mental Health team (see below for details) or out of hours GP.
Medication:- You will need to seek the advice of your GP initially for a referral to a Specialist Perinatal Mental Health team. If you have a diagnosis of bipolar disorder and are taking medication then you need to have a review as soon as possible. Luckily in Wessex the whole area is covered by these teams and you can find you nearest one here (see the contact details below). It is not generally recommended that you take holistic medication without speaking to your GP in the first instance.
Need help right now?
Hampshire Lanterns are a group of mums who have experienced mental health problems during pregnancy or after childbirth. They aim to support each other via the internet and group meetings so that no mum should ever have to suffer alone.
Telephone details for Specialist Perinatal Mental Health Teams:
Hampshire, Southampton, Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight Perinatal Community Team:
01962 89 7780
Dorset Perinatal Community Team:
01202 584 329
Useful services & resources:
Content adapted from MIND and APP.