Bipolar ups premature birth risk

  • Deborah Condon

The babies of women with bipolar disorder are more likely to be born premature, a new study has found.

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, is a severe and chronic condition. Those affected experience sustained high moods, followed by periods of sustained low moods. High moods can see the person feeling elated and needing less sleep. Low moods can range from mild to severe depression.

Almost 40,000 people in Ireland have the condition.

Treatment can include the use of mood stablising drugs. However, while previous research has suggested that these drugs may increase the risk of complications during pregnancy and with the baby, little is known about the effects in women who do not take these drugs. Therefore Swedish scientists decided to look at both mothers who take mood stabilising drugs for their bipolar disorder and those who do not.

They identified 320 mothers who were being treated for their bipolar disorder and 554 mothers who were not. These were compared with thousands of other mothers who did not have the condition.

The study showed that all women with bipolar disorder - whether treated or not - had an increased risk of having to undergo a Caesarean delivery or a delivery involving the use of forceps or a vacuum. They were also more likely to require induction - in other words, their labours were less likely to start spontaneously.

Those with bipolar disorder also had a 50% increased risk of having a premature baby, i.e. a baby before 37 weeks, compared to unaffected mothers. Again, this was irrespective of whether they were being treated with drugs or not.

The study also noted that those with bipolar who were not being treated with drugs were more likely to have a baby with microcephaly (a small head) and neonatal hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar levels).

The scientists concluded that the role of drugs in the treatment of pregnant women with bipolar disorder remains unclear, as the findings 'generally did not support a significant difference between untreated and treated mothers'.

Details of these findings are published in the British Medical Journal.

For more information on depression see our Depression Clinic here
For more information on pregnancy, see our Pregnancy Clinic here


Discussions on this topic are now closed.