Bipolar medication and breastfeeding

Sharon - posted on 08/26/2010 ( 22 moms have responded )

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Hi, I have bipolar and am about to give birth to my 3rd child. I was only diagnosed with it after I had my 2nd child and had already stopped breastfeeding him. I am wondering if there are any mums out there who know if it is safe to take bipolar meds while you are breastfeeding as I want to be able to feed bub for as long as possible without having to give up because I need to go back on my meds. I have looked up numerous sites about it and spoke to many different doctors and lactations consultants but I have been given mixed information. Would love to hear from mums who have experienced it first hand and if there were any side effects to baby. Thanks. Sharon

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Julie - posted on 10/08/2010

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No meds are "safe" while breastfeeding. BUT, in a normal, term baby, the benefits of breastfeeding outweigh the risks of mom being on Lithium PROVIDED mom and baby are being properly monitored. I know this because I was supposed to go on Lithium but I wanted to breastfeed and had a severely premature baby. I was able to pump while on alternative meds, but ultimately became suicidal, had to stop pumping and go on Lithium early. HAD I CONTINUED and had my son actually been able to latch, I would have been breastfeeding while on Lithium. I had even discussed it with the pediatrician and the need for monitoring and she was OK with it.

Phew. I am tired of hearing that you CAN'T breastfeed and be on meds you need because most of the time, you can. It just takes extra monitoring of you and the baby on the part of the doctors. BY FAR AND AWAY the Benefits of breastfeeding outweigh the risk of being on medications, provided an informed decision is made by the patient and the doctor. Notice, many doctors keep taking US out of the equation by telling us it is just not possible to breastfeed and be stable on meds.

Sharon - posted on 12/02/2010

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I have had to stop breastfeeding now which has really disappointed me but it wasnt due to taking meds I just didnt have the supply and she wasnt getting enough. She is happy and healthy now and thats all that matters. I am glad everything has worked out Stef and you have 2 beautiful children with a happy mummy. I think that is the most important thing is that we are happy then our children can be happy

Stef - posted on 12/02/2010

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all three of my doctors(ob,gp and psych) and my daughters doctor said NO to breastfeeding.. They all said that the risks of my medication compared to the benifets of breastfeeding were too great. They told me that my children having a mother that was on her meds and could take care of them and be there for them was way more importand. My daughters doctor said that she needed hugs, and close contact with me more then she needed my milk.. I was made to feel so horrible by people that I wasnt breastfeeding that I stopped taking my meds and suffered a psychotic break.. I lost the first 4 months of my daughters life.. I am now lithium dependent along with 5 other meds just to hold my mood stable.. I reccomend listening to doctors and really weighing what is BEST for the baby and you.. Both of my children were formula fed and thrived just as well if not better then my friends children who were brestfeed.. My children have always been in the 90th to 100th percentile and my son is functioning at a 5 year old level and hes 3..

Julie - posted on 10/24/2010

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I hope things go well at your next doctor visit. I know when I had a psychotic break and refused to take any meds b/c I wanted to breastfeed, my doctor simply refused to work with me at all (I use "my doctor" loosely, I never really dealt with him outside of the hospital). It was only after consulting with my friend before I was readmitted to a different hospital where they were more willing to work with me, the NICU and my desire to pump.

You're very welcome and good luck.

Sharon - posted on 10/06/2010

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I am not sure about that one. I saw my psychiatrist on monday in regards to my meds and going back on them and she did say that most of them are safe. I know lithium isnt safe while breastfeeding. Ask you local lactation consultant. she should know if it is safe or not if not she can easily look it up. If it isnt then there are a few others out there that are safe

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Natalie - posted on 06/17/2014

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Congrats on your baby girl! I have been taking lamictal 400mg daily since my son was about three or four months old. I was lucky to have found a Dr willing to treat pregnant and breastfeeding moms with meds thru a local PPd org. My kids ped knew he had prescribed it for me and also signed off, they had a good lactation consultant and used Dr Hales Medications and Mothers Milk. Ditto for later when I was prescribed Topamax mainly for my migraines. My son is 18 mo and I am trying to wean. He is super smart, social, very verbal for his age and has never shown any developmental issues. I only meant to nurse a year but with my other he went until after three...its a struggle for us both right now and I am thinking of consulting with Dr Hales organization again, there's a hotline you can call. They were great when I was so paranoid about going on meds at all, I also got good support from a local LA Leche League chapter. I'm lucky to have found so much support, it was hard making the decision to nurse and medicate but is way better than how crazy I was with my first at this age, never having gone back on meds since pregnancy. I hope it goes well for you and your baby.

Taylor - posted on 06/05/2014

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I fought tooth and nail to stay on lithium through my twenties because it is, by far, the most researched and safest option out there. I breastfed two babies on it, after being pregnant with them. My youngest does have the "rare as hen's teeth" heart condition associated with lithium, Ebstein's Anomaly. But, I have yet to find another mom whose baby has the condition who also took lithium. My son's heart docs are not convinced that they are related at all now. I took high doses of folic acid 3 months before I was pregnant and throughout my pregnancy.

My biggest piece of advice would be to go to a reputable naturopath before getting pregnant and find out if you have any other deficiencies or allergies that may be contributing to the bipolar. This may help you feel better during your pregnancy and help keep you and baby healthier. After I lost my first totally healthy baby at 36 weeks, I found out from my naturopath that I wasn't absorbing any folic acid and was suffering from an immunodeficiency. Taking better and different vitamins, as well as amino acids I was lacking, and the converted form of folic acid, has made a world of difference in my moods, my overall health, and my ability to be a mom.

You can check out my website at redvinespirituality.com/bipolarmama/ where I talk about all of this and have resources. Good luck to everyone out there!!! Switch to lithium if you want to have a baby, and find a psychiatrist, therapist, and ob who will work together and with you.

Christian - posted on 03/26/2014

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I've never been officially diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I've always been to scared because of the stigma attached. Most of the time if I get enough sleep I have very few problems except around my period when my hormones go crazy. Or I'll have panic attacks if I get a big stressor or don't sleep for a few days. My ob let me have half an ambien in the hospital after I had my son and after I got some sleep it made a world of difference, but my regular doctor won't do it because she says it can cause breathing problems. I want to see someone to have it diagnosed and try to find something that's safe to take just when I need it. My son is 7 months old and fully breastfed, I want to keep breastfeeding him. I also worry that if my ex husband finds out that I do actually have bipolar disorder he might try to use it against me. Has anyone else been in a similar situation?

Sharon - posted on 07/30/2013

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I am not 100% sure about Effexor and breastfeeding. I have been on it in the past but never while breastfeeding. I cant remember if that's what I was changed to while breastfeeding my oldest (now 10 yrs) and had to stop feeding her due to the meds or not. I am now pregnant with baby number 5 and only taking Zoloft to help with the depression :) As soon as bub is born however I am straight back on epilum so I don't have a relapse.

LeeAnn - posted on 07/30/2013

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Im taking depakot and effexor I know depakote is bad but i need to know about effexor.

Sharon - posted on 10/20/2010

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Thanks Julie I will have a read through it. My psychiatrist and gp are very supportive but at times give the wrong information. I think my anxiety of being on the meds and all the things that could go wrong is my biggest issue.

Julie - posted on 10/19/2010

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Sharon, I didn't mean to come off cross at you, just your doctor. You can really only know what they tell you and they only tell you what they think is current. I am just sad because moms do not get enough support from all their doctors when it comes to breastfeeding.

Regarding meds and pregnancy, here is an article with a doctor who specializes in bipolar pregnant/wishing to become pregnant women:

http://cme.medscape.com/viewarticle/5068...

Sharon - posted on 10/18/2010

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What medication are you on Tonya? Sorry for asking just curious as I cant fall pregnant on epilim and had to go off of it for at least 3 months before I could start trying. This was a huge concern for me knowing what my moods and behaviour was like with my other 2 children. luckily I was ok this time but relapsed earlier after giving birth. Being able to take something the whole time if I was to fall pregnant again would hopefully prevent any relapse which would be great

Tonya - posted on 10/18/2010

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I had an extremely preemie and extremely small little girl about a year ago. I took both my bi-polar meds while pregnant and pumping. I never was able to put my daughter to breast because she needed higher calories and still does. She's very active. I'm currently pregnant with my second and with both kids I took my meds the whole time. I'm on high doses for both of them.

Sharon - posted on 10/08/2010

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I was only saying what my psychiatrist said in regards to lithium. I agree that the benifit of taking them out weighs the risk as I became extremely bad after having my little girl. I have just started taking epilim while breastfeeding and she is being monitered for any side effects. So far she is possibly showing side effects from the meds but at the same time she is 6 weeks now and they all seem to go through a change so that could be the cause. It is just hard because all this all happened when I went back on meds. My best advice to anyone wanting to breastfeed and take their meds is to talk to their doctors and go from there..

Julie - posted on 09/02/2010

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Most bipolar meds are not safe when given in high doses to pregnant lab animals. That does NOT preclude their use while breastfeeding or even pregnant.

It is very important for mom to be healthy, too and that is why it is important for doctors to consult Dr. Hale's book and maybe even a specialized doctor before just saying "no". Once such MD would be Adele Viguera at the Cleveland Clinic, who specializes in pregnancy and bipolar.

Sharon, you're most welcome. Congratulations and best of luck with your breastfeeding--it is definitely what is best for you and your daughter!

Sharon - posted on 09/02/2010

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Thank you very much for all the advice. Since posting this I have had my gorgeous little girl and spoke to the doctors and lactation consultants and all have said that I am fine to go back on Epilim which is a huge relief for me knowing I wont have to give up feeding early like I did with my son.

Melissa - posted on 09/01/2010

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Most bipolar medications are not safe, thats why you cant take most while pregnant...

Julie - posted on 08/31/2010

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Ok, here is the book of all books when it comes to what is safe/less risky for mom to take while breastfeeding: __Medication and Mother's Milk__ by Thomas Hale.

Have your doctor look up information there, it will give a whole lot more than the "cover your butt" Pysician's Desk Reference.

Julie - posted on 08/31/2010

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yes, yes and yes! not all meds, but many .... overwhelmingly the benefits of breastfeeding very much outweigh the tiny risk of what might be passed onto your child. There is a fabulous drug book out there that does this, but I don't reccall the title or author. Most drs will just say no b/c they are afraid or lazy or both. I was lucky enough to have a friend who worked in a lactation clinic in canada and could tell me where to tell my drs to look/consult. That clinic works with one in the rochester, ny area.
I forget what I was on initially, but I was pumping for my baby in the nicu and he got my milk. my docs wanted me on litium, but it wasn't ok for the baby until he was term (3 months) i was only able to pump for 14 weeks so I was unable to breast feed:(
i'd type more but i'm on a laptop .... let me know if you cannot find what I am talking about and I can ask my friend for author/title and a clinic they can consult with ....

good for you! bestof luck

ps my son is now two and a half and doing awesome!

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