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Bipolar & Pregnant

I found out I was pregnant on a Tuesday night, in the privacy of my bathroom. I was excited, and overwhelmed to say the least. The first order of business was to treat my body as if I were nurturing a precious life. For me, that meant immediately stopping all medications until I could confirm with a doctor that they were safe during pregnancy. Three years earlier, I had been diagnosed with Bi-polar Type 2. (A form of Bi-Polar where the mania (high, elevated mood) is less severe and is instead called “hypomania.”) Fortunately for me, it didn’t take long before my doctor and I found a medication which worked well at regulating my unpredictable, uncontrollable moods. At the time I found out I was pregnant I was taking 400mg of Lamictal, 10mg Abilify, and a small does of Klonopin each day. 

My psychiatrist told me years before now that I would have to stop taking the Lamictal if I became pregnant. He didn’t tell me at the time, if I should discontinue the drug immediately or if I should wean off of it slowly. I errored on the side of safety and stopped taking the drug immediately. This proved to be a big mistake.

First off, when I stopped taking the Lamictal, The following week, I began having severe mood swings. I became deeply depressed and that depression lasted for months! No matter what I did, I could not shake that hopless sad feeling. I knew I should be happy that I was fortunate enough to conceive a child without trying. I wanted so badly to enjoy what would likely be my last pregnancy. However, I was a slave to depression. I cried everyday. My feelings were easily hurt, and I became unpleasant to be around. At work I rarely talked to my coworkers, I felt very alone and isolated. Looking back, I probably should have tapered off the medication to avoid worsening of my symptoms and rebound side effects. 

In addition to being in the throes of the pharmacological withdrawal, and under the full control of Bi-Polar disorder, I was experiencing the hormonal mood swings of pregnancy and the sickness and fatigue that came alone with it! So I literally had no idea if I was an emotional wreck due to unmedicated Bi-Polar disorder or if it was the hormones of my pregnancy which had me so out of sorts. What I did know was that I was sick all day, everyday for months. I was extremely tired all the time, and to top it off I was miserable and depressed, and nothing seemed to help.

My marriage had become miserable because it seemed to me that my husband was unable to accommodate my emotional neediness. My time with the kids was limited because I was often too tired to fully be engaged in them, and I didn’t want them to see me being so sad. I later found out that some of my co-workers even noticed that I was “Bitchy” at work. I had frequent arguments with close family and my duties around the house slacked tremendously. 

Looking back, I realize that I should have sought help by seeing my psychiatrist and discussing which pharmacological options were available during my pregnancy. However, there were two obstacles getting in my way: First, I was prideful and I really wanted to make the ultimate sacrifice of keeping my body as pure as possible during my pregnancy even if it meant being miserable. and secondly, Getting an appointment with my physician would take several weeks if not months! I was trapped in a hopeless cycle. 

Today, four months since I found out I was pregnant, I feel much better. Physcially, the nausea, and fatique have subsided. Mentally, I feel much more level headed. I honestly believe that all of the medication has finally cleared my system, and at most, I’m only dealing with Bi-Polar symptoms and not rebound symptoms from abruptly stopping my medication. Although, I still have my mood instability, the depression is minimal and comes and goes. I cry some now, but once a every week or two and not multiple times a day. 

My relationship with my husband has gained some positive momentum as have my other relationships with my family. I finally mustered up the courage to make an appointment with my physician, and we are scheduled to meet tomorrow.  I am nervous about what he may tell me, but I’m hopeful that with continued support from friends and family, and therapist, I can make it through the rest of my pregnancy with or without medication.

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