Yesterday, I spoke with Jessica (camdensmom06) about her secondary fertility issues -- she's a 28 year old mom who has been trying to conceive baby #2 for over a year. But she also has Bipolar disorder, which means she must navigate the complicated issues surrounding her mood-stabilizing medication while trying to get pregnant.
Here's what she had to say about the challenges, and how her mental health has affected her life as a mom and her journey to conceive a second time.
How and when did you get your Bipolar diagnosis and how does that affect TTC?
Being diagnosed Bipolar was nearly a direct result of TTC! Let me explain.
I've been prescribed a group of medications that are usually used to treat Bipolar, but not because I had the diagnosis. It just happened to be what worked for me. My diagnoses were Major Depressive Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and a misdiagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder. My mood-stabilizer is my most important medication, but it is also the most dangerous to an unborn baby.
So when we started TTC, I weaned off of that medication under my psychiatrist's supervision. This was the six months of preparation for TTC that I mentioned earlier. It went well for quite a while, but then I was blind-sided by a complete nervous breakdown that resulted in a psychiatric hospitalization in August, 2008. As a result of the events leading up to that hospitalization, I was finally properly diagnosed as Bipolar.
Do you have to stop taking your medication entirely while TTC, or just once you become pregnant?
The ideal would be for me to stop the most dangerous medication completely while TTC, but at this point I'm just not sure that's possible. Right now we're just on an infertility fact-finding mission; we're trying to learn what could be wrong and what can be done.
I think once we have a course of treatment outlined for the infertility we will develop a course of treatment for getting me on the lowest possible dose of my medication.
Once I become pregnant, then, yes, I need to go off of this medication unless my symptoms are extremely bad (i.e. a danger to myself or others).
How do your doctors feel about the situation when it comes to the medication?
Both my psychiatrist and OB/GYN are concerned for my health since they know how dire the consequences can be if I'm not doing well off of my medication. And they're both very concerned about the effects the medication could have on a baby.
The doctors aren't working together, per se, but they are aware of each others' concerns. I communicate to both of them about what is happening in both areas of my health -- TTC and Bipolar.
How has being Bipolar affected your being a mom? Has it?
Being Bipolar has definitely affected my being a mom. Sometimes I'm not the mom I want to be; the mom I know I'm capable of being. I can be short with my son. When I'm depressed, I don't get down on the floor and play with him as much as I would like to.
But I think my son is more aware and more in touch with his emotions than the average 2 1/2 year old. He's been naming his own emotions for a long time (sad, angry, happy) and that has allowed me to openly talk about his feelings with him. And he's one of the most empathetic children you'll ever meet.
Recently, I asked my husband to take Camden outside to play because I was upset and didn't want him to hear me cry. Camden knew something was wrong anyway and when they came in he brought me a tissue and his favorite stuffed animal.
What advice would you give other moms who are struggling with similar TTC and mental health issues? What has been helpful to you in getting through these challenges?
Ask for help. And then take that help! Make sure you talk to all of your doctors about all of your concerns. Have a support network of friends and family. Be honest with yourself and those close to you.
Hiding your feelings and trying to be strong just to get that baby lands you nowhere good. If you need a break, take it. I've found comfort in my husband and my family. And of course CafeMom!
Are you trying to balance mental health issues with pregnancy and motherhood? Do you know a mom who is? What has the experience been like?