Summary: Bipolar disorder is a disorder which affects quite a few people – men and women alike.  Also known as manic depression, it can happen to men and women with equal frequency.  There are definite differences in the symptoms and the treatment regimen for the sexes.  Getting timely medical intervention can help people live a fairly normal life.

Symptoms of bipolar disorder are very different in women – they are more likely to be depressed than manic.  The reasoning is that female hormones have a big influence as well – so treatment has to be tailored accordingly.  Studies have suggested that bipolar disorder can occur in menopausal women as well – 20% of women have severe emotional problems during the transition phase to menopause.  There is evidence that pregnant women are 7 times more likely to face problems and get hospitalized for their disorder – they are also likely to see a recurrence in symptoms.

Treating Bipolar Disorder:

The main goal of the treatment is aimed at stabilizing the mood so that there are no extreme swings between a manic or depressive state.  For most people long term treatment is necessary not only to relieve but also to prevent bipolar symptoms.  The most common method of treatment involves medication and counseling sessions.  Drugs used to treat this condition include:

·         Lithobid

      ·         Depakene

      ·         Zyprexa

      ·         Risperdal

 These are just a few medications used to treat bipolar disorder. They usually come with a warning that suicidal behavior and related thoughts may increase in people.  Patients have to be monitored when they are on the medications to check if there are any new or unusual symptoms or changes.

 Getting Treatment during Pregnancy

 Generally, the treatment regimen is the same regardless of sex.  Special treatment needs to be done for women who are pregnant – it is crucial for them to stay on the medication.  The reality is that the medications may pose a risk to the fetus.  The medication and treatment regimen is changed to minimize risk. 

 All in all, most doctors prefer to use older drugs like Thorazine or Haldol to treat pregnant women.  These have fewer side effects and pose less of a risk to the unborn child.  This is because they have been used for many years and their effects are known.  Some women may choose to stop their treatment during pregnancy – once they have delivered, the treatment regimen has to be resumed to avoid health issues. 

 According to research and clinical studies, medications like carbamazepine and valproic acid have proved to be harmful to babies and have contributed to serious birth defects.  In the case of valproic acid, when a woman finds out she is expecting, the dosage is usually lowered and vitamin K is prescribed alongside to ensure that no birth defects occur – especially to the head and face.  Some of the drugs may cause abnormal muscle problems in fetuses.  Symptoms could be any of the following:

 ·         agitation

 ·         abnormal increase or loss in muscle tone

 ·         difficulty in feeding or even breathing

 ·         involuntary twitching of muscles

 These symptoms disappear within a few days in some babies – others will be kept in the hospital for monitoring.

 Other Treatment Options for Women:

 Young women and girls taking the drug valproic acid have to be monitored by their physician for increased levels of testosterone in their blood.  There have been instances when this has caused women to have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome – this condition impacts the ovaries directly and causes irregular periods, excessive body hair and obesity as well.

 The medication Lithium has been shown to reduce thyroid hormones in people and this can also directly affect bipolar disorder.  Thyroid medication is prescribed to reduce side effects like dizziness, constipation, drowsiness and headaches.  For those who don’t want to take medications, electroshock therapy may be an option to consider – especially if they are pregnant.  Fetal heartbeat is monitored during this course of treatment to ensure the heart rate and oxygen levels are steady – treatment can be done if the need arises.  Pregnant and normal women with bipolar disorder are advised by their doctors to get regular exercise and therapy to manage their symptoms better.