Having a diagnosed mental health challenge or disorder does not mean that women should not have children. However, it does mean that a higher level of support may be needed to ensure that the woman keeps well during pregnancy and following the birth.
How can a pre-pregnancy consultation help?
If you have already been diagnosed with a mental health challenge or disorder, such as
- Bipolar Disorder
- Major Depressive Disorder
- Anxiety Disorder
or you experienced postpartum psychosis in a previous pregnancy, it will help you to plan your care during pregnancy and following the birth with your healthcare provider(s). You, your family and your healthcare providers will then share in the plan for how best to support you during this time.
If possible, talk to your healthcare provider before you become pregnant, but if not, as soon as you know you are pregnant. Your healthcare provider may refer you to a specialist such as a Reproductive Mental Health psychiatrist for additional help in planning your care.
What advice will I be offered?
You may want to raise your own concerns or worries but the healthcare provider can help you with the following
- Understanding how the pregnancy and postpartum period will affect your mental health challenge or disorder.
- Planning for pregnancy and becoming a mother, including putting psychological and other supports in place.
- What changes may be needed in medications before pregnancy, during pregnancy and in the postpartum period. This will include a discussion on risks and benefits of treatment.
- Planning for delivery of the baby.
- How to optimize sleep after the delivery.
- Breastfeeding when taking medications.
- Maintaining psychiatric follow-up after the baby is born.
If you have been diagnosed with a mental health challenge or disorder and you are thinking of becoming pregnant or you have discovered that you are pregnant and are worried about the effect of your mental health or any medications you are taking on your baby, talk to your healthcare provider as soon as you can. It is never too late to do so.