This particular illness can take several forms.
There is bipolar type one and bipolar type two. Both are mood disorders and both can make you feel rubbish once baby has arrived.
So why is that important? Well in terms of perinatal mental health, these two types of bipolar have two very distinct ways of being treated so it’s really important to think about these two pathways.
Bipolar type one is classed as quite high risk if support is not given in the initial stages of pregnancy rather than waiting until after your baby has arrived.
Type one has what professionals refer to as a manic phase. After the birth of your baby you may feel euphoric (intense excitement and happiness) and have boundless energy.
That all sounds great doesn’t it if you now have sleepless nights, all that energy would be really good! Except you now need your sleep more than ever and that euphoria is not helpful when it comes to sleeping.
You may become disorientated; start seeing things or hearing things and feel scared and out of control. The answer is a simple one, believe it or not. Please tell your GP or midwife that you have this diagnosis and let them get the right people involved in your journey before you risk getting unwell.
Again, often becoming unwell from this illness is avoidable and as always, if you are on medication for this illness, then please do not just stop it when you find you are pregnant. Speak to your GP and midwife and get advice before you do anything else.
Bipolar type two is more recognised as a mood disorder that we in the trade think of a predominantly low mood.
You may have multiple mood changes daily or weekly, but the overriding mood is one of feeling low and unhappy.
In terms of risk, there is far less risk with a type two diagnosis but your team would be keeping a close eye on you to see if your mood starts to dip. So please, let your team know you have this diagnosis so they can keep an extra caring eye to make sure your mood doesn’t dip and stay dipped after you have had your baby.
Unfortunately, low mood is not something that we can predict so it really is a case of wait and see. Your GP, midwife and health visitor are all very geared up to keep you well or nip a low mood in the bud. Once again, if you are on medication for this illness then please don’t stop it once you find out you are pregnant.
With both bipolar type one and type two there is a clear route for you to engage with – speak to your GP, midwife or Health visitor; they have the knowledge and experience to talk you through your options so you are in full control of all your choices to allow you to have a wonderful perinatal journey and as usual, please don’t just stop taking any of your medications when you discover you are pregnant.
They keep you well which is exactly what we want you to be!
If you recognise yourself from either of these descriptions but don’t have a diagnosis, please also speak to your GP, health visitor or midwife.
For more information and support:
Bipolar UK: bipolaruk.org