Maybe Baby? Should I Consider a Bipolar Pregnancy?

I need some input on this one. My wife and I have been seriously discussing the notion of having my bipolar highness carry our second child. Yes, I’m aware this sounds presumptuous, considering our first won’t even be here until December, but it is well known that a great deal of preparation must go into a bipolar pregnancy. Because we are getting older, and because we want our brood to grow up close in age, it’s wise to consider all factors ahead of time. Not to mention that we are indeed, a lesbian couple with limited resources (ahem, readily available man ingredients), and the mere truth that there is a higher percentage of difficulty in getting pregnant via IUI or IVF. So, we are doing our research and talking openly. The process of fertilization aside, what we both feel most concerning is my bipolar disorder. This is the weighing factor. She supports me if I decide I want to do it, but she is wise to be cautious.  I’m scared and unsure, as well as confident I could do it if I really wanted. I go back and forth on the subject all the time. So I’ve decided to weigh it out here. Help me pick apart my bipolar pregnancy anxieties.
 
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I would have to come off of or significantly reduce my medications during pre-pregnancy.
As we learned with this current pregnancy, when going through intrauterine insemination (IUI), the months leading up to the actual insemination must be treated as carefully as if you were already pregnant. This is because the body is going through preparations, which may include fertility drugs, in order to promote healthy ovulation. What does this mean for the bipolar end? Well, it means weaning off of medications that could potentially be dangerous for a developing fetus. Mood stabilizers such as Lithium, or anti-convulsants, are known to cause severe birth defects. Other classes of medications include antipsychotics, which should be avoided due to lack of research, and tranquilizers or sedatives, which should be avoided, especially in the first trimester, also due to increased risk of congenital malformations.  Now, I know some researchers say certain things are alright to be on in low doses, but you have to remember it’s a timely and costly venture for us gay chicks to get knocked up. Why in the world would I dare to risk anything potentially hazardous to unborn baby? Why would anyone, really?
 
I would have to remain off of meds for several months during pregnancy.
Okay, you already know why I’d have to come off of medication. Common sense says I’d have to stay off for the duration of the 38-40 weeks of carrying the baby. And unless I decide not to breastfeed, I will have to remain off during the nursing months as well. My head spins a little further and I imagine life not on meds… To begin, what’s different already is that we’d have a little one around. I’d have to maintain parenting an almost two-year old, while my hormones are changing in ways I cannot even imagine, all while being off of the medication I rely on for stability. I would have to try not to destroy my marriage, become hopelessly depressed, fly away on a manic spree, or worse yet- develop psychosis. I’m not really sure what they do with a pregnant person in the mental hospital when you can’t consume the drugs. I can, however, imagine the manic version of nesting and it sounds quite colorful indeed!    
 
It’s scary to not be in control of potentially changing moods under the influence of hormonal changes.
The last thing I would want to do is jeopardize my family. My beautiful wife will be giving birth to our son in just two short months, and already I love him more than I imagined I ever could. We certainly want to add on to our family and I consider my role in doing just that. I think about what I contribute now. I work a steady job, I do my share to keep the house clean and put together, I take care of our many loving pets, and I try my best to be a good wife. I’m able to play these roles because I am on a strict medication regimen, I am in touch with my triggers, my body, and my mind. Have I had major episodes that were beyond my control? Absolutely. And yes, they impaired each of these roles significantly. Now, if I were carrying a baby, off of medication, I wonder how I would be affected by the many hormonal changes that come along with pregnancy. I would need to have prepared some coping techniques for when things seem out of control. Part of my preparation would be to have an outlet, where I could put my energy in the case of a trigger, to help steer me back on track. Maintaining some area of control would be imperative, not only for me, but for the growing baby, and my family as well. 
 
The heart-wrenching feeling that I could be passing my bipolar to my baby. And knowing it.
While no exact gene can be determined as of yet, researchers have found that a child with a parent diagnosed with bipolar disorder, can be somewhere around 50% more likely to also have bipolar disorder or some other psychiatric illness. Whoa. Ok let’s be real for a minute. No parent would ever want their child to have to suffer from any type of illness, medical or psychiatric. So part of me feels like I would knowingly be putting this baby at risk for developing bipolar. Is that irrational? (Is it bad that I can’t tell if it’s irrational?) Maybe my anxieties are taking a toll, but I want to be a good mother. And I know that starts at pre-conception. That baby would have an increased risk of developing bipolar growing in me, as opposed to a safer route, and having my wife carry all of our babies. (Which I’m totally okay with too- she is ADORABLE pregnant!) 
 
Postpartum instability and re-entering the drug sphere.
Say I do manage to get through pregnancy and childbirth, med-free, family still likes me, etc. Okay, now the hormones take a whole new shift postpartum, often causing changes in mood. Some women fall into a depression, others become incessantly irritable or have crying spells. I may or may not have these issues, but it’s good to be aware of the flood of hormones. Now, judging from my own illness, my past, what has and hasn’t worked for me, I will be going back on medication. The thoughts in my mind, however, include What if my old meds don’t work for me anymore? Do I have to start over? I don’t want to go through trial and error while caring for a newborn, Is it okay to not breast feed?  I guess there are probably a million more things that will take over my brain if I did go through the process, but each of these are important questions to be answered. 
 
In a way, it is selfish of me to carry a child.
Perhaps I’m over thinking, but on one hand, I look at hetero couples, with a man and a woman, and I think there is only one womb, only one of them can carry a baby. If the woman in that relationship has bipolar disorder, then do they have a bigger dilemma than us? Would it be selfish of me to want to carry a child when my relationship has another perfectly good womb in which plant a seed? This is one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever been faced with. And while I don’t need to know today, I eventually need to make my decision. My wife is very understanding either way, and is in no way pressuring me, which I truly appreciate. She is, also, more than happy to carry again. Part of my brain looks at the cautions and repercussions involved with me taking on pregnancy. Then, a teensy part of my mixed up brain realizes that other bipolar moms have accomplished this remarkable task and came out of it better than ever.
 
If anyone has gone through this or if you have any any advice, thoughts, anything- I’d really like some input! 
 
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9 thoughts on “Maybe Baby? Should I Consider a Bipolar Pregnancy?

  1. Gosh Nectar, you have every right to have a baby. You have a loving and supportive family. I had a bad situation with my second child. It was a tragic outcome for me in that she is living with her Dad now. But in hindsight in my situation it would have been better had I not breastfed. She didn’t want to stop breastfeeding and I had no-one to help me feed her because she could smell me I think. I needed medication as soon as she had been born. I breastfed for 9 months. I found it really easy to breastfeed but I knew I needed to be on medication.
    I breastfed my first child – my son for 2 and a half years. He was four when I was diagnosed with bipolar and until that point in his life my mental health had been stable. I was 30 when I was diagnosed but I had symptoms since around 15 years old. He hasn’t got bipolar or depression. He has always had friends, is in a relationship and is reaching his goals.
    I took no meds at all when pregnant with my daughter. She is very healthy.
    Think of all the good you have for a child. There are many bipolar mother’s out there – some of whom I have met – who make loving and conscientious parents and their offspring grow up to know that they are loved so much.

    My situation when I had my second baby was all topsy turvy. It was the worst possible scenario for a person like me who needs stability. I was not manic when I was pregnant.
    If a person’s environment is stable then its a much more positive experience.

    • Lynne, thank you for sharing your story. I am inspired by moms like you, who can recognize symptoms and care for yourself as well as your children. That’s interesting that you were not manic while pregnant. I have heard that pregnancy hormones can balance out moods. As of now I’m still deciding if pregnancy is for me or not. I do absolutely agree that a stable environment makes a huge difference.

      • You’re very welcome! Thank you for replying. I am looking deeper into my reasons for certain emotional responses and how I can manage that to have a more positive outlook. My internal dialogue has alot to do with how I am approaching things in my life and I know I must change that somehow in order to be more hopeful. I’ve gone off topic here but just putting it out there. Writing about the past is not easy though. I hope to spend more time reading your blogs as well as writing more of my own. Best of wishes to you

  2. You are not selfish at all for wanting to carry a baby! I have not yet gotten pregnant but I’ve had the exact same conversation with my husband and doctors that you’ve had with your wife and doctors.

    I’m scared to death that my children will have a mental illness, because not only do I have Bi-Polar I, my husband’s grandmother and my grandmother are both Bi-polar. But I still want a family. It tears me up that my children may have to go through the stuff I go through. However, who better to guide them through it than someone who knows exactly what they are going through?
    There are plenty of children/adults who have mental illnesses and no family to support or try to understand them.

    As for the meds, I’m terrified as you are. However, I’ve researched it with my doctor and there are other medications that aren’t harmful during pregnancy. However, they don’t always work.

    This is such a hard decision to make, I wish I could come up with a majic solution. But I wish you and your wife the best in making this decesion.

    • Thank you so much for your support on this. It’s a huge decision to weigh out and of course I’m probably overthinking it! But it is best to be educated and informed, right? And best of luck to you if and when you and your husband decide to start a family too.

  3. My husband and I have chosen not to perpetuate our genes. In addition to just not wanting kids, I would never, ever wish my illnesses and other funky genetic oddball factors on another human being, much less someone I’d love as dearly as a child. I could never forgive myself for that.

    We figure that if we want children later on, we can adopt. I don’t know how much more challenging that might be for a lesbian couple (though it shouldn’t be, dammit!) and it certainly isn’t cheap, but perhaps worth considering? My sister-in-law has 4 children of her own, and then they adopted a pair of the most adorable Ethiopian children you ever saw – they were very touched by the plight of orphans and felt compelled to share their hearts and homes with children who had none.

    On another level, overpopulation is a massive global problem; our planet really is running out of resources because there are too many mouths to feed and as a species, we’re not doing anywhere near enough to mitigate the damage we’re causing. My husband and I consider it ethically irresponsible to contribute to that problem, so adoption seems like the only appropriate choice to us – overpopulation and environmental degradation is already all but guaranteed to make most of the planet uninhabitable in as little as 50 years, so, y’know. (I work with ecologists and we’re in a much more dire situation than the media makes it out to be.) I wouldn’t damn my children to that fate either. I’m actually pretty grateful that my natural lifespan should be up just before it gets really and truly ugly.

    Anyway, that’s a pretty negative viewpoint and I don’t expect others to agree with me, but whatever you choose will be the right choice for you. I can’t imagine how hard that decision must be!

    • I admire your passion and I thank you for your honest input. On some level I do agree with the feeling of potential guilt for passing along any illnesses and genetic factors that you speak of. I do have to say, with all due respect, the question isn’t whether or not we should have children. That I do not need help deciding. I believe there is a ridiculously long spectrum between creating a family and and creating an uninhabitable planet. I do think adoption is a wonderful thing for the right person and I absolutely commend your family for their warmth and generosity.

      • It’s easy to take a relatively extreme view of it when you have nothing to lose, of course! Basically I just wish people would put the kind of consideration into reproducing that you are clearly doing. We’d all be in a better situation if that were the case.

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