I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder after my first two children were born. The condition is said to peak in fertile years and that’s exactly what happened in my case. With regular meetings with medical professionals, I was able to recognize the symptoms of the disorder I’d been experiencing for many years. I started taking medications to control the mood swings, but the process of finding the perfect cocktail of bipolar medications is not an exact science. Mood swings took me all over the map in terms of emotion, but eventually we worked things out and I found myself in a place in life where I wanted to have another child. I stopped taking my bipolar medications to prevent possible fetal birth defects or pregnancy complications and I conceived twins. The pregnancy was amazing, but I constantly worried about the effect of postpartum depression on the disorder.
Researchers are in the same place I was at that time. There are no long-term studies showing how pregnancy affects bipolar disorder and some medical professionals believe that this piece of the puzzle is important to understanding bipolar disorder as a whole.
After the birth of my children I chose to live medication free. Many women report relief from bipolar symptoms during pregnancy, which happened during my twin pregnancy. That lapse of symptoms can lead to an unrealistic feeling of control. After pregnancy, hormone levels fall and emotional distress, including depression and mania can pop up out of nowhere – stronger than ever. I’ve spent the last nine years without medication and each year the symptoms get worse and harder to control on my own. I have no doubt I will eventually end up back in the doctor’s office working on that perfect cocktail again, but in the mean time I’m left wondering if my pregnancy and early menopause could have impacted my bipolar symptoms and severity.