Pregnancy and Labour with Bipolar
Updated: Oct 20, 2020
Hi, I’m Jodi and I have bipolar and PTSD. I’m 34 years of age and I have a beautiful baby girl called Milly. I’m a chiropractor and complementary therapist and I run my own business. Just to put my past into context, I developed PTSD not from my days as a soldier in the Army but from a past abusive relationship.
Firstly Milly wasn’t planned. I actually fell pregnant during a high phase of my life, before my diagnosis. I was on anti-depressants as the medical professionals thought I had agitated depression.
I am really lucky to have an amazing psychiatric nurse (CPN) and a great psychiatrist and have had lots of support since my diagnosis. I am aware that I may be in a minority with this. I often hear horror stories about how difficult it is to get diagnosed and the lack of support available
“My partner and I were thrilled with the news, although it brought worry about how my hormones would be affected.”
I know that both my CPN and psychiatrist had concerns when I told them that I was pregnant. The main priority was to make sure that the meds would be ok for pregnancy, luckily they were safe for all stages. I booked a private scan to date my pregnancy and it revealed that I was almost 10 weeks pregnant. My partner and I were thrilled with the news, although it brought worry about how my hormones would be affected. Honestly, it sent me a little crazy at first. I found my partner very frustrating, at the time, and I had a really short fuse. Following a huge argument which involved the police being called, I pushed it too far, we didn’t recover and he left me shortly after. I was 5 months pregnant when he left, it destabilised me and sent me into a major bipolar dip. Following an emergency visit from my CPN and a trip to the local A & E I was admitted to a crisis house for a week.
I’m very grateful to Richmond Fellowship as my time in the crisis house was beneficial, it didn’t feel like a psychiatric ward, that would have been the last place that I needed. It gave me time to reflect, recover and get used to the idea of becoming a single Mum. I felt nurtured by the staff and the one to ones I had help me think about a future going forward, they thought about things that I just couldn’t at the time. I hold the Crisis House very close to my heart because it helped me so much and I’m grateful for everything they did and are doing with people with mental health problems.
“It gave me time to reflect, recover and get used to the idea of becoming a single Mum.”
Milly was born in June last year following a traumatic birth. I was induced on my due date. I decided that I didn’t want my ex partner to be present at the birth so my Mum was my birthing partner. We made a great team, she helped me so much through labour and it was helpful having someone there that had been through it before.
I was offered gas and air which was wonderful, it did make me feel slightly drunk. The gas and air must have reacted with my bipolar and because I really went for it I overdosed and it sent me into what I can only describe as psychosis, something I had never experienced before. That was, without a doubt, the scariest experience of my life. I forgot that I was pregnant and my bump was freaking me out. I also thought that everyone was against me and it felt like a conspiracy theory.
Shortly after, my contractions stopped, they thought this was related to the gas and air reacting with my bipolar. I got to 9cms dilated by myself and then I was told that I would have to have an emergency C-section, I was gutted, it felt that I had done 32 hours of labor for nothing.
“I forgot that I was pregnant and my bump was freaking me out. I also thought that everyone was against me and it felt like a conspiracy theory.”
The epidural was heaven, the pain disappeared and my mind was clearer as the gas and air wore off. It was actually a beautiful experience, the all woman team were exceptional. Once Milly was delivered at a healthy 9lb 3oz, she was shown to me and quickly passed to my Mum who was promptly escorted out of the room. Little did I know that I had lost a lot of blood and they needed to concentrate on patching me up. This meant that I didn’t get to have skin to skin contact with my baby girl. I also can’t remember holding her for the first time as I was kinda out of it from exhaustion and the drugs.
Over the next few days Milly would get full body spasms and she was a very quiet baby, the healthcare team confirmed my worst fears; that it was in fact withdrawal from my meds, I felt so guilty and it was horrible to see her go through it. The withdrawal lasted for about three days. I had to stay in hospital until I was assessed by the mental health team to confirm that it was safe for me to take Milly home with me. As I had Molly on the Thursday and the mental health team is a Mon-Fri 9am-5pm which I still don’t really understand as we all know mental health problems can happen at any time.
“I felt so guilty and it was horrible to see her go through it.”
I was finally allowed to take Milly home after a long week in hospital. We thought it would be safer and easier if I stayed with my Mum for two weeks to allow me time to settle into motherhood with support from my family, again I’m very grateful for this and both my Mum and Step-Dad were a wonderful support.
At my Mums I was visited by the crisis team and by my health visitor, again I’m super blessed to have an amazing health visitor. It did feel like I was being watched and social services was constantly on my mind; what if they took her away from me?
“I was visited by the crisis team and by my health visitor, again I’m super blessed to have an amazing health visitor.”
I saw my psychiatrist very early on, apparently newly post-natal Mums are at a greater risk of destabilisation. Unfortunately my regular CPN was off sick so I didn’t have that valuable support available. I was allotted a new temporary CPN, which felt a bit alien, I didn’t want to open up to her for fear of them deeming me an unfit mother. My medications were changed as they couldn’t be, whilst I was pregnant, but the old meds weren’t suiting me. A medication change is always scary for me as I had a really tough time with the first meds I was on. The new meds kicked in quite soon and they really helped. The biggest shock for me was taking Milly home, I felt so isolated without people around, I felt like my flat was a cell.
Milly was a summer baby, I have always enjoyed walking; it gives me time to think. I would walk everywhere as I’m not allowed to drive until I have been stable and without any medication changes. It took several attempts to get my meds right as I developed post-natal depression and struggled to form a bond with Milly in the early days. I’m currently going through a medication change and I’m pleased to say that the new meds seem to be the right combination for me. My ex partner and I co-parent, he has her three nights a week and I have her for the other four nights. This really suits us as it gives me time to rest and recover, one of my triggers is lack of sleep so I have to make sure I’m well rested. Luckily Milly slept through from two weeks old, this felt like such an answer to prayer.
“Milly was a summer baby, I have always enjoyed walking; it gives me time to think.”
Now Milly is nine months old and her character is really developing. Our bond is growing daily. I love her more than I ever imagined possible and it’s a different type of love. I’ve never been stable before so it feels like I’m having to learn how to live life differently
have regular visits from my health visitor and CPN at home. My meds are finally right and I’m feeling happy for the first time in a long time. I do miss her when she’s at her Dads, he sends me videos throughout the day so I feel like I’m involved. I love being a Mum and the future now seems bright. Due to my experience I have decided to train as a Doula so that I can help other Mums through their pregnancy and birth, this is a really exciting step in my career and the future now seems bright.