Bipolar disorder

What is bipolar disorder?

Bipolar disorder, which used to be called manic depression, involves periods of depression (low mood) and mania (elevated, high mood). Some women with bipolar disorder also experience psychosis. Bipolar disorder is a serious mental health condition that affects a small number of women during pregnancy. The causes of bipolar disorder aren't known, but it is frequently inherited and often linked to stressful life events.

Could it be bipolar disorder?

Women who have a history of bipolar disorder in their family may have a first episode during pregnancy or after the birth of the baby. Women who have previously had bipolar disorder or puerperal (postpartum) psychosis have a high risk of relapse at this time.

The symptoms of bipolar disorder during the antenatal and postnatal period are the same as those at other times. A woman experiencing bipolar disorder may focus her fears and depressive concerns on her and the baby's health and wellbeing during pregnancy and early parenthood, and/or on whether she will be a good mother.

Recognising symptoms of bipolar disorder and talking to a doctor are very important. The earlier a woman is diagnosed, the quicker she will be able to receive appropriate treatment. The first step is to talk to a GP who can develop a treatment plan, organise referrals and explain the available Medicare rebates.

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