If you are still rather young and you have a mental illness such as bipolar disorder, the ability to have children may have crossed your mind.
I see having children as a personal choice and it also depends highly on the individual’s health. If you or your spouse has bipolar disorder and would like to have children, it is definitely something you both should look into and talk about with your doctors to see if it is possible for you. I don’t see any reason why someone with the disorder should not be allowed or should not be able to have a child unless some medical factors lay in that may affect your health negatively. With having a diagnosis such as bipolar disorder, there may be some concerns you have about having children. I will be upfront and honest, there are several factors I see to consider before just going about it.
- Have a plan. When you have bipolar disorder, it is a very important and beneficial to your health to plan ahead with your spouse and doctors before becoming pregnant.
- Bipolar disorder is genetic. The disorder can be passed down from parent to child, but that does NOT mean your child will necessarily develop the disorder. It’s a chance. According to the site ScienceDaily “children of parents with bipolar disorder had an increased risk of having a bipolar spectrum disorder (41 or 10.6 percent vs. two or 0.8 percent) and having any mood or anxiety disorder. Children in families where both parents had bipolar disorders also were more likely than those in families containing one parent with bipolar disorder to develop the condition (four of 14 or 28.6 percent vs. 37 of 374 or 9.9 percent); however, their risk for other psychiatric disorders was the same as offspring of one parent with bipolar disorder.”
- Most medications should NOT be used during pregnancy. If you are currently medicated, you may, most likely, have to stop your medications during the pregnancy or look into an alternate treatment. Also, if you plan on breast-feeding, most medications are not safe to use during that time. You may have to seek out other options or plan ahead with your doctor.
- Expect or prepare for possible extreme body and mood changes during and after pregnancy. Pregnancy changes a woman’s body drastically during pregnancy due to hormone changes, increase in blood, emotions, and the overall mental and physical well-being bipolar or not. This can disrupt and often make the bipolar illness worsen due to all the chemical, hormonal, and bodily changes during and after pregnancy. It is very important to take extra care of yourself and keep in touch with your doctors and a therapist.You may have heard about postpartum depression before and that is good – It’s good to be aware of this condition and be conscious of any changes you may notice within your body. Postpartum depression or postpartum psychosis is possible, but not a definite outcome. This may be a risk to talk to your partner and doctor about before deciding if having children is for you. According to PubMed Health, “Postpartum depression is moderate to severe depression in a woman after she has given birth. It may occur soon after delivery or up to a year later. Most of the time, it occurs within the first 3 months after delivery.” From Pregnancyinfo.net, women who have a family history of psychosis, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia have a greater chance of developing the disorder. Additionally, women who have had a past incidence of postpartum psychosis are between 20% and 50% more likely of experiencing it again in a future pregnancy.”
- Children, especially young infants, require a lot of attention and your time. Children need a lot of attention and a positive role model. There are some, but definitely not all, that may not realize just how much attention they require and how important it is to be a great role model to their children. I am not saying that those who have bipolar disorder can’t be good parents, give them the attention they need, or be a great role model. Those with bipolar disorder, like I have said before, can be just as good of parents as any other person out there. It just takes the right situation, precautions, support (spouse, family, doctors, etc), and extra time planning ahead. When you have an illness such as bipolar disorder, it is common for the illness to interfere with one’s daily lives consisting of alternating moods, symptoms/behaviors, and emotions. The illness can consume a lot of one’s time and take out a lot of energy in one’s life. Some days it may feel as if there is no escape from the symptoms. A lot of personal space and down time is often necessary for those who live with bipolar and it’s often difficult to put others needs before one’s own. When it comes to children, they need and depend on you everyday. It may be quite strenuous when trying to take care of another person when you’re in need of some personal space to cope and regroup. Something to consider would be to figure out a plan how it will be possible to take care of a child, but also cope with the disorder.
Essential tips if you are planning to have children:
- First, make sure your health is stable and under control. Talk with your spouse and doctor about medications, what to expect, and how to take care of yourself and the child.
- Second, have a successful plan. Make sure you plan out before you become pregnant and also for during and after the pregnancy. Always keep communication open – talk to your spouse and doctors frequently. Note any changes, even minor ones and report them back to your doctor and spouse. Also, have more than one plan if possible. This will increase your chances for a safer pregnancy and health if one plan ends up not working or something happens to change.
- As with any person before a pregnancy, consider your health, relationship, decide and plan on appropriate ways to cope around your child, and your overall feelings towards becoming a parent. Make sure you and your spouse are both ready and can support each other. Prepare for the worst, but don’t expect it or worry about it. Just be prepared, know what to look out for, and keep an open mind.
- Create ways you can minimize stress and relax. Remaining stress-free as possible and being relaxed is also very important. For example; Get plenty of rest, take breaks as needed, listen to soothing music, take a warm bath, light some candles, and keep coping skills (such as breathing exercises) close at hand. These are some ways to relax and keep your health and the stress under control.
- Lastly, some with bipolar may not want to risk their health by becoming pregnant themselves and this is perfectly okay and sometimes even the best route to take depending on the severity of the condition. Sometimes those with bipolar may not be able to be taken off of their medications so they look into other options such as adoption or finding a surrogate.
Bipolar Disorder requires a lot of support, knowledge, and understanding. It is a plus if you and your spouse are aware of your symptoms, triggers, and frequency of episodes. Knowing and being aware of this can be a great help before planning a pregnancy.
From a personal point of view on the topic: I am currently 23 years old and I realize I am still young and have some time ahead to really think about having a family. Having children and wondering about my ability to be a good mother and wife has crossed my mind very frequently. I have definitely wanted to be a mom since a very young age, but I have also been unsure when in times of depression and despair. I know at times my bipolar disorder completely takes control over my life and I can feel as though everything is out of my hands. I have times where I am incredibly selfish where I need (or want) extreme amounts of attention. I am very protective and tend to get jealous easily. I wouldn’t want these issues I struggle with to come between a child and I or make my relationship with a spouse even more complicated. I fear for that. I fear that the relationship between a spouse and I would change drastically and we wouldn’t have the closeness that we do now. I fear that I will lose all sense of comfort and control. I worry that I wouldn’t be able to care for my child and give them the life they deserve. I worry and don’t want my disorder to neglect the child or a spouse. I am also concerned and aware about the risks of my child developing a mood or anxiety disorder. It does worry me, but even with all the concerns revolving around my illness and my relationship, I know that deep down I really want to have a family. I know that being aware of my illness and worries will definitely help me when the time comes. I really think having a child is personal choice even if you struggle with a mental illness. I think anyone with a mental illness has just as much potential to be a great parent as anyone else. Every parent, no matter who you are, will make mistakes and that is also something to keep in mind too.
I also know that it is very important to be healthy first and ready for anything that may need to be faced later (and that may even mean waiting a bit longer if the time isn’t right at that moment.) One benefit that keeps me going is if bipolar is passed down to my child, I would have the understanding of what they are going through. I would be able to relate to and understand my child. I know there are some parents that would love to understand their children and what they are going through better. I think this can be a fantastic benefit, but ultimately I would want my child to be healthy as possible and not have to go through the struggles I have. As of now, I am not even close to be planning for a family, but the thoughts do occasionally cross my mind about living with bipolar and having children.