Bipolar Disorder may Trigger more Episodes during Pregnancy

First Posted: Nov 02, 2013 01:03 AM EDT

A new study from Northwestern Medicine takes an in-depth look and the psychological changes bi-polar women experience during pregnancy and how they may be more prone to reoccurring episodes if some medications wear off.

When a woman with bipolar disorder becomes pregnant, she and her physician often are unable to accurately adjust her medication needs in order to prevent the symptoms from coming back and preventing a higher risk during pregnancy. There is also little information and research for guidance regarding adequate doses of psychiatric medications during pregnancy.

It's estimated that 4.4 million women in the United States have bipolar disorder with women of childbearing age having the highest prevalence.

This study measured blood concentration of the a commonly used drug to treat the problem, known as lamotrigine. This decreases depressive symptoms from worsening as blood levels drop due to increased metabolism rates during pregnancy.

"Now physicians change the dose of the drug in response to women's symptoms worsening," said lead investigator Crystal Clark, M.D., an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a psychiatrist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, via a press release. "We need to optimize their medication dosing so they stay well."

The study results will help physicians understand how to increase their patients' doses during pregnancy and then reduce them postpartum to avoid toxicity, Clark said. Guidelines for prescribing the drug for pregnant women with the disorder also are included.

More information regarding the study can be found via the American Journal of Psychiatry

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