National Pregnancy Registry

My daughter turned 8 months old yesterday. About two weeks ago she started crawling and just yesterday she started babbling non-stop. I am continuously amazed at how quickly she is growing and changing. And I am intensely grateful that she is a happy, healthy baby. I was hospitalized for bipolar mania when I was just five weeks pregnant. My husband and I had been trying to conceive our second child for seven months and it had finally happened, only to cause me such excitement that I couldn't sleep which lead to my mind racing beyond belief forcing him to sign me into a psych ward for four days. I had been working closely with my psychiatrist to come off the Lithium for the first trimester once I found out I was pregnant and then once the mania took over from the excitement of finally becoming pregnant, I continued to refuse medication because I thought I was doing what was best for the baby growing inside me.

Looking back now I know how very wrong I was.

The main risk that the baby faced if I stayed on Lithium was Ebstein's anomaly, a heart defect. The general population has about a 3% chance of this particular congenital heart condition, and the risk increases to around 6% for a person taking Lithium during pregnancy.

In my case the benefit of staying on medication greatly outweighed the risks of me becoming manic and needing hospitaliztion, and I definitely knew this having done a ton of research beginning back before I became pregnant with my son. But with his pregnancy I was able to somehow stay medication-free throughout those nine months and one month after his birth. And I think I was feeling some mommy-guilt in wanting to give this second baby the same drug-free environment in which to grow and thrive. It only seemed fair.

After spending four nights and five days in a psychiatric facility near our house, I was finally released to the care of my regular psychiatrist after being stabilized on Haldolย via injections because I was very resistant to oral medications at the beginning of my hospital stay. They also used Zyprexa since historically I responded so well to it. Of course I was scared to death about how these medications were affecting the baby's development, especially because there is so little research out there on the use of a-typical antipsychotics during pregnancy.

This is what lead me to find the National Pregnancy Registry via an online search. They are collecting information from women who have taken certain antipsychotics during pregnancy and after childbirth to hopefully shed more light on the safety of these medications during pregnancy. They also need women who are currently pregnant and NOT taking these medications, to serve as the control. If you know someone who is willing to participate in this on-going study, please direct them to the site to sign up to join.

It is easy to participate - just a series of brief phone interviews and some completed paperwork releasing medical records is all it takes. They do a baseline interview during the beginning of the pregnancy, a 7-month interview, and a postpartumย interview. Simple. Once you finish it will give you a good feeling knowing that you are doing something to help improve the quality of healthcare for pregnant women in the future.

A little history - the first half

In writing my blog posts, I'm not planning on going in chronological order, because that would be kind of boring, don'tcha think? The first half is about my first two hospitalizations which occurred within two weeks of each other and were before it was determined that I was Bipolar. The second half details my second two hospitalizations which occurred after the birth of my first child and during the first trimester of my second pregnancy.

However, I do think that it would be helpful to give a quick little summary in order to kick-off the launch of my blog, so here goes. Back at the end of 2005 I suffered my first mental break when I became manic beyond belief and had to be taken via ambulance, screaming and strapped down to a stretcher I might add, to the hospital because my poor husband had no clue whatsoever as to what was happening to me. I had barely slept a wink that entire week and it all came to a head on Sunday night. Two nights in the psych ward, a week off from work to recoup, my first visit to a shrink who attributed the entire episode to sleep deprivation and told me I could discontinue the Risperdal I was taking, and yes folks, believe it or not, I was back at work the following week.

Two weeks later when I relapsed and suffered another manic episode, it was clear that something really was wrong with me and it wasn't just sleep deprivation. But with no real history of mental illness in our family, we didn't know where to start to begin seeking answers. My parents spoke with some close friends of theirs who were able to find a recommendation for a psychiatrist in Florida and got me an appointment while I was there with my husband visiting over Christmas. Spending Christmas Day and the two days after in another psych ward was not my idea of a holiday. In fact, that Christmas was probably one of the worst days, if not the worst, day of my life.

After emerging from that second hospitalization, and sitting down for just an hour with the psychiatrist we were referred to, he was able to determine that there was a very strong likelihood that I was suffering from Bipolar Disorder and that I needed to start taking an anti-psychotic medication immediately to bring me down from the mania that I was still apparently experiencing. That evening I began taking Zyprexa.

Once back in Virginia and back at work, I started having anxiety attacks on an almost daily basis. The feeling of waves of panic coming over my body were so intense that it became impossible for me to be effective at work. I was forced to resign from my job as a successful employment agency recruiter and in turn felt like I had lost part of my identity. Crying spells then became part of my daily routine, in combination with the anxiety, and I remember wondering if I were going to be feeling that way for the rest of my life. It was a scary time for me. I don't ever want to go back to that. Ever.

I remember back in the fall of 2006 when I was incredibly against going on Lithium, but yet, at my wits end with the way I was feeling I was ready to give in and try anything with the even the slightest probability of helping me feel like my old self again. For pretty much the entire year I had been depressed and anxious and thus I had reached a turning point. My psychiatrist at the time had been suggesting Lithium for a few months, but it just seemed so final, so imperative. But who was I kidding? It was obvious to the three different shrinks I had seen, one being a renowned specialist in the field, that I was bipolar and that a mood stabilizer was what I ultimately needed to function at a normal level.

So fine. I caved into going on a Lithium regimen the day after my husband and I had a consultation with the specialist. He didn't even see patients any longer, only did continuing research in the field. So when my dad's friend was able to get us an appointment as a favor, we jumped at the chance. At the time I was on Prozac and Zyprexa, along with Ativan for anxiety and Ambien for sleep. Nice cocktail of meds, right? The Prozac caused some suicidal thoughts, though nothing I ever remotely was going to act on. So my doctor had cut that dose back quite a bit. After seeing the specialist I started on Lithium and my regular doctor began to wean me off the Prozac and Zyprexa one at a time until I was eventually just on Lithium.

Within a matter of four months I found myself feeling like the old me again. I was ready for a fresh start and finally felt more confident. It was what I needed in order to launch a job search and in a few short weeks I landed a job as a corporate recruiter for a Fortune-500 company and I couldn't wait to get started.