Saturday, February 14, 2009

Postpartum Health and Bipolar Disorder

When I started this journey, I desperately wanted to prove that a woman with a mental illness could have both healthy children and manage her illness. So far, I think I have succeeded. That's not to say that it hasn't been challenging. It has. But, I think I have narrowed down a few things that have helped me throughout the journey. Those ingredients for mental health have been provided by a large village of people.

The first ingredient is my incredibly supportive and loving husband. He has been my safety net. He catches me everytime I fall. He has developed a true understanding of my emotional challenges. He has learned what to say, how to say it, and, more importantly, when to say it.

The second ingredient includes my team of mental health professionals. I see my psychotherapist weekly and she has been available by phone at any hour of the day or night. She works closely with my psychiatrist who has extensive experience treating bipolar patients who want to become parents.

Of course, psychiatrists are only as good as the medications they prescribe. Throughout my pregnancy, I was on 100 mg Zoloft and 100 mg Seroquel. Postpartum, I continued those two drugs (reducing the Seroquel to 25 mg so I could wake up for night feedings) and added Gabapentin. In addition, I take DHA and EPA (Omega-3s) and prenatal vitamins. More importantly, I always take my meds. Always.

Finally, I breastfeed and practice attachment parenting. The breastfeeding induced hormones help keep me balanced and reduced the effects of the postbirth hormone changes on my mood.

This has what has worked for me. Bipolar women can be moms. We can have healthy children and we can stay healthy too.