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Pregnancy and Birth Risks with Bipolar Disorder

US News Health,  Nov 12, 2012

November 12, 2012

In a study published by BMJ on November 8, 2012, scientists discovered a link between pregnant women with bipolar disorder and subsequent risk of pre-term labor before 37 weeks.

According to the CDC, bipolar disorder affects women greater than men at a ratio of 3:2. The age of onset is typically 25 years, which coincides with reproductive age. Bipolar disorder is characterized by severe mood swings alternating between mania and depression. During mania, the person tends to exhibit impulsive and attention-seeking behaviors that later decline into a low emotional state. These symptoms can be managed by medication and therapy, however, subjects of the study were found to have premature births independent of their treatment.

In this study, 320 pregnant Swedish women currently in treatment for bipolar disorder and more than 550 pregnant women not currently in treatment were recruited for participation and compared to a control group.

Both groups of women with the disorder were at higher risk of cesarean delivery and in need of medical intervention during their births. Untreated women with bipolar disorder were at 37.5% risk of medically assisted delivery, treated women were at 31% risk, and those without bipolar disorder were at 21% risk.

Similarly, those with untreated bipolar disorder had 8.1% greater risk of premature birth, those treated had 7.6% risk, and women without the disorder had 4.8% risk of pre-term birth.

The purpose of this study was to determine the risk-benefit odds for treating bipolar disorder during pregnancy. Given the similarities in birth between the untreated bipolar disorder group and treated group, it would seem treatment itself is not the question. Further research is needed to find a solution for effectively treating bipolar disorder while reducing risk of pre-term labor. If you have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and are receiving fertility treatment or currently pregnant, you should discuss use of medications during pregnancy and infertility with your doctor.

To read more about the study, click here.


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