I Can’t Get Pregnant – I Have Bipolar Disorder

Should People with Bipolar Have Kids?

I am now 33. And that’s one of those ages where the biological clock starts to have a deafening ring. But the thing is I can’t get pregnant; I can’t have kids; I have bipolar disorder.

Pregnancy and Bipolar Disorder or Depression

Pregnancy is a pretty traumatic event for a body to go through, even for the healthiest of women. It changes absolutely everything about your body from hormones to blood volume and the curl in your hair. And if you don’t think it’s going to have an impact on bipolar disorder or depression, you’re just not thinking straight (Medical Research on Bipolar Disorder and Pregnancy).

Postpartum Depression or Postpartum Psychosis

Unfortunately, during the most “magical” moments of a woman’s life, after she’s given the screaming, blood-covered lifeform, an insidious disease known as postpartum depression, or worse, postpartum psychosis may be moving into her brain. Postpartum depression hits the brain of 15% of women after they have a baby. And we’re notoriously bad at screening for postpartum depression which compromises a woman’s ability to care for her child.

And worse (and much less common) is postpartum psychosis. Postpartum psychosis takes depression to a whole new level where the woman completely loses touch with reality and may even harm her child. Postpartum psychosis has an infanticide rate of 10% – 15%. Oh, and those women with postpartum psychosis – most of them have bipolar disorder.

Pregnancy and Bipolar Medication

Bipolar and PregnancyAnd on top of that, whatever meds I might be taking now would likely have to be discontinued during pregnancy. Pretty much all psych meds are in a category that is recommended only in life-saving circumstances and some psych meds are known flat out to harm newborns, like cause birth defects. And forget about medication if you want to breastfeed.

Of course, an untreated mental illness harms a child as well. Children born to depressed mothers show decreased cognitive abilities from the time they are born and it’s still there when the child starts school.

Genetics and Bipolar Disorder

And then there’s the issue of genetics. If you have a serious mental illness your offspring has a very good chance of also suffering a serious mental illness. And if both parents are ill? Then you might as well just sign your kid up for a psychiatrist now.

In addition to my personal, mental illness, there is also the fact that mental illness runs in my family, including addiction (which also has genetic ties). My family is rife with destruction thanks to mental illness.

Can a Person with Bipolar be a Good Parent?

Now this one I can’t answer for sure, but in all honesty, if I look deep into the mirror and think about being with a child fulltime, I can honestly say, no, I couldn’t be a good mother. Not because I don’t want to. Not even because I’m not sure how to. But because my moods will override that child sometimes. I know they would. They override everything. They destroy everything at times. There is no reasonable way to look at it such that a child would also not be hurt by that illness.*

I Can’t Have a Child, I Have Bipolar Disorder

Pregnancy and Bipolar DisorderSo between the trauma of pregnancy, the horrors of post-partum and medication, the unfairness of genetics and the reality of parenting, there is just no way to have a child. I can’t do it. Not if I love that unborn child. Not if I want a better life for them then I have had. Not if I don’t want to sentence them to a life started with a ball and chain attached to their psyche.

I’m not saying that’s how everyone sees it, and if you’re mentally ill and going to have children, doctors can help you through that process. You can get through it.

But what I know is true for me is that having a child would be unbelievably selfish and I could never do that to an innocent life. So no matter how loud my biological clock ticks I have to do the right thing and not have a child.

If you’re interested in more on pregnancy and mental illness, see Medscape Reference and the Mayo Clinic.

 

* Now I know, many people have two-parent households, in which case, good for you, but I have to say, if you’re considering having a child, you ought to consider what single-parenting is like as there is a fairly decent chance it will come down to that as is obvious simply due to the divorce rate.

Leave a Reply

  1. I have had the same struggle you have. All my life, I’ve wanted to be a mom, but since I was officially diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I feel that the risks outweigh having a baby. It is so heartbreaking and tears me apart. I’m trying to find ways to fill my life, but it is so difficult. I feel like I’m grieving. The closest thing I can think of to being a mother is to be a godmother or have a lot of pets. :-p I’m hoping that one day, the pain from this loss will weaken and that a new dream will grow.

    • Hi Alissa,

      Honestly, I have grieved not having kids too and I think that is a healthy and natural thing. I think you can’t move past it until you do grieve.

      I can’t tell you how to fill your time but maybe you would like to be a Big Sister of someone (through the program)? Or maybe another charity would suit you more?

      I’ve worked with a charity and it can be very rewarding. (And you could work with a charity that targets kids, if you like.)

      Those are just my thoughts, but grieve as long as you have to. It sucks. It’s not fair. I know. But you’re doing the right thing for you.

      – Natasha Tracy

  2. I think this post is inflammatory and mostly meant to provoke a strong reaction either way. Your choice is personal. As one commenter pointed out should anyone with any genetic risk choose to not have children? Going down the road of genetic discrimination if not downright eugenics. I think your post is irresponsible.

    • I have followed this for a long time now and everytime I read it and read some of the comments I feel quite disgusted and also very sad. My daughter is nearly 15 months and everyone tells me what a wonderful mother I am. I take good care of myself with lithium, diet, exercise and always keeping my appointments with my therapist and doctor. Lithium has always worked very well for and I suffer no side effects from it. My daughter is a very happy little girl and she brings me so much joy and happiness. She really is my best little buddy.
      To be honest this article and some of the comments goes right into Hitler territory IMO and I suppose what I find most shocking of all is how many people feel that way. This article is very misguided and gives a lot of very inaccurate information. If you want children don’t let this one article be the deciding factor in your decision to have children. Discuss it with your doctor. Have a care plan so you have the healthiest pregnancy possible, and a plan for after birth to minimise any risk of having an episode. I was advised not to breastfeed so I could go back on lithium immediately after the birth and that’s what I did and 15 months on I’m fine and as long as I continue what I’m doing I don’t see why that would change. You decide your future not this article.

      • I thank you for your post, I 38 always been scared to get pregnant, but your post gives me hope, thank you

          • I think is very unpolity what you did!! I talked to my doctor, and its ok!! Dont force your opinion on me.

            • Hi VAnia,

              Suggesting that you MAY want to know the fully-researched and referenced medical facts isn’t forcing anything.

              – Natasha Tracy

            • I dont think that was your real intention, besides, is just one opinion. And im not gonna valorize. But thanks for the poison!

            • Hi Vania,

              Medical facts aren’t actually an opinion. They’re actually medical facts. You can feel free to believe that or not. And you can feel free to do with those facts as you please.

              – Natasha Tracy

            • they are not the only medical facts in the world! Do what you please with your life, but dont force others to see you way only. There are other facts! And my doctors are good ones

            • Vania I’m really glad that you decided to talk to your doctor. I’ve read so much over the years on the subject. For every study they’ll be a different study.
              For example I was petrified that I may have caused horrific damage to my daughter over taking lithium in the first few weeks of my pregnancy due to not knowing I was pregnant. I was really reassured by my doctor that it would do no harm. I was so well looked after during my pregnancy that I could never fault the services we have in Ireland for those who suffer with mental health issues.
              I have my doubts and worries sometimes and I speak to someone or a friend, and they tell me every mother has doubts and concerns.
              There are medications that can be taken that are considered to be a lot safer. I took a very low dose of largactil in my third trimester I became depressed, but I think that was mainly due to the fact that my grandad had passed away very suddenly, I absolutely adored him, and was devastated that he would never meet his first great grandchild.
              I made a decision when I was pregnant that I would always follow the advice of my doctor. Every person with bipolar is different. I suppose this is the reason why one medication/ medications might work brilliantly for one person and be useless for an other. There is no black and white when it comes to bipolar. In fact it’s very hazy. I have found the older I have gotten the more I’ve learned about myself and I know what I need to do to stay well, but that did take time.
              I know that despite the fact I have bipolar and it really has been a rocky road the past ten years. I’m glad that I was born and that I exist. Everytime I’ve had a bad depression it’s never lasted forever, and everytime I’ve had hurdle with my bipolar I’ve learnt a bit more about myself and what I need to do to prevent those hurdles.
              I had actually never really given much thought to having a baby, and I honestly thought I was infertile because I was convinced I had PCOS.
              I know I would never change a thing though if I could turn back the clock. She lights up my life every day. She’s is my best friend and watching her crawl, walk and hit all her milestones ate my most precious memories that I’ll have till the end of my days. I’m not saying it’s been easy I’ve had tears and doubts, but believe me every mother does regardless of whether or not they have bipolar.
              If you don’t want children that’s fair enough, not everybody wants kids it doesn’t make you a bad person.
              I just want people to not make a decision based on an article or something they read on the Internet.
              If you want children discuss it with your doctor and your closest of supports. Because their opinions and your opinion are the ones that really matter.

            • Yes thank you and very happy for you. Ive talken to my doctor and they said what you said also… So all good ;)

        • Vania I wouldn’t even bother reading anything on the internet about should or shouldn’t I get pregnant. The only advice you should go by is that of your doctor, therapist and the people that are closest to you. Like I said don’t let an article/ articles decide your future. That’s your decision to make.
          If you read through all the comments Natasha is full of praise and encouragement for those who wanted children but have decided to take her misguided article onboard.
          But for every bipolar woman on here that comments about there positive experience of having children there is no praise. I’m sure every comment like that is silently met with disdain by Natasha.
          While I think it’s fine to have a blog and write your thoughts on a subject. I don’t think it’s okay to actively encourage women to basically have there tubes tied and that they’re going to be a rubbish parent because they have bipolar. If somebody doesn’t want children fine it’s there life, but I don’t agree with trying to sway people’s decisions and being delighted for people when they comment I really wanted kids but after reading your article I won’t now and I’m going to look into getting my tubes tied.
          Nothing but positivity from you when someone comments something like that.
          Just because you have decided not to have children. Don’t try and persuade and encourage women that you don’t know about what they should do when it comes to their fertility so flippantly.

          • Thank you sweety, i think it was very rude of her sending me that link, forcing me to think the way she thinks… I will definitly have a child, especialy because i have the suport of everyone around me inclunding the profissionals in this area!!!

  3. What a wonderful article. I’m going to see my OBGYN today actually and let them know I need a tubal ligation. I want children, but I know like you said it would be not only dangerous for me and the child, but selfish. I believe my mother is undiagnosed bipolar, but it’s swept under the perverbial rug. Wanting children is the hardest thing, and knowing it’s the best thing to sent myself breaks my heart.
    You are a strong woman whether you believe it or not. I’m going to be 33 in May. My younger sister just had her 499th and final baby girl. I’m so happy for her but broken because it’s not me
    I appreciate you opening up your guts and spilling them.
    Take care.

    M.G.

  4. I agree with this article. I’m glad there is a post for individuals who are investigating this topic.

    Let me preface this by saying, I would love to have children in my life of my own. I thought about adopting down the road instead.

    For me personally, I feel it is the responsible choice for me not to bear children, not just a personal preference.

    I agonized over this decision for years until I laid it on the table as: “Is it the responsible choice?”

    My family is littered with mental illness. It is saturated through and through.

    The trail of destruction and self destruction is so intense that I cannot begin to cover it here.

    Sometimes, I look at them and in a very cool hearted way wonder why my family doesn’t just stop breeding.

    It is a shameful admittance.

    But that cool hearted passing thought comes from a very insightful perspective.

    I was a very mentally ill child.

    When I was 10 years old, I wanted to conciencely die for the first time.

    I was confused, I hurt inside, I didn’t know anything was wrong because I didn’t know any better.

    Nobody understood, especially myself.

    My personal choice comes from watching my mother cry over me.

    She cried because the child she brought into the world, just wanted to go right back out of the world and that child didn’t feel like being born to begin with.

    So, as much as my seemingly cold hearted comment is upon my family, it was indeed a question of good conscience.

    How would I feel if I were to bear a child so mentally ill that as soon as the child could comprehend it, would let me know that they wished they were never born to begin with?

    It honestly saddens my heart.

    However, the silver lining is that there are so many children in need of loving parents – I don’t really have to question whether or not I made the right decision or even the wrong one.

    I will be adopting a child in need of a home instead.

  5. I was in remission for 21 years. I had bipolar disorder for approximately 3 years, from age 16 through 19. I did not have to take medication of any kind for bipolar during this remission time and I never experienced mania or depression. I graduated from college with a 3.6 with a bachelors degree in Information Systems. I had 4 children, three deliveries because I had a set of twins. With my 4th delivery, a set of twins, I unfortunately came out of remission. I went into a terrible and frightening mania attack. That has been 19 years and 2 months ago. For some reason, the manias I have now are more severe than the manias I had as a teen. To be completely honest, having my last set of twins is a decision I made that has almost completely ruined my life. I have to take Lithium now, and have gained 160 lbs. I weigh almost 300 lbs. I am 5’6″. None of the other bipolar medicines work. If I don’t take Lithium, i get manic. I have been hospitalized at least 8 times., sometimes for 3 weeks. Because of my behavior when I am manic, I have lost friends that I had for over 50 years. The twins whose delivery gave me bipolar are very disrespectful & mean to me. One of them calls me “Crazy Lady”, cusses me out , & steals and breaks my property. She tells me and other people how much she hates me. They both are out of the house now and in college. I wish I had made the decision not to have anymore children after the 1st four. Having the bipolar come out of remission because of giving birth to the 2nd set of twins was not worth it. If the twins had been more respectful, I may have different feelings. Mental illness carries a stigma, and when it comes from your own children, it is difficult to bear, especially when it was giving birth to them that caused you to become so miserably ill. To those of you who have bipolar and have made the decision not to have children, that is a good and safe decision. To those of you who decide to have children, I hope you do not end up like I have. My husband is very good to me. My other 4 children tell me that my bipolar made it hard on them but they try to understand how difficult the illness is on the one suffering from it. I will say too, that the lives of my husband and other 4 children would have been better if I had not decided to become pregnant again. Some people will say that my last set of twins did not decide to be born. That is correct. However, they did decide to treat me bad and hate me. They do not have bipolar or any other mental illness.

  6. I totally agree on this article. I cant have kids too because, i suffer from bipolar ilness, and i do all my best to never have one. I have nepwes, thats good enought for me :)

  7. I have relatives who made the choice not to have kids. Most of us with mental illness did make the choice to have children, though. Some can handle it, some aren’t so great at it. We knew the risks. Between my husband’s and my problems with mental illness, there was pretty much no way our children would not end up with something. One child has autism and bipolar disorder, the other has ADHD and anxiety/panic disorder. Yet we are one of the most stable, well-adjusted families I know….first, my husband and I put in a LOT of blood and sweat into making our marriage work. Second, we did everything we could to educate our children about our illnesses and prepare them for anything that they might inherit. It worked well. Our children are now in their teens. They are honor roll students, teacher and family favorites, and I know we made the correct choice in having them. I am 100% disabled from bipolar disorder, I have a nasty case that doesn’t respond well to medication. I won’t be gross and say I wouldn’t be alive without my kids, or nonsense like that. It was tough. I had a few horrible breakdowns. My husband had a horrible breakdown. One of our children ended up psychotic and suicidal when bipolar disorder decided to rear it’s ugly head. But we’ve gotten through that as a family, and we will get through whatever other junk comes our way. My kids are certainly glad we had them. The good times far outweigh the bad. All that aside, we wanted a big family, but after having one son with autism and my subsequent disability from bipolar disorder after my daughter was born, we did make the decision not to have any more kids. I was afraid what mothering ability I had left, might end up destroyed with another pregnancy, and there was something like a 25% chance we’d have another child with autism, which could range from high functioning to severely low functioning. There is no way I could have handled raising a child with a severe disability. Everyone has to do what is right for them. But I wouldn’t call our choice to have children selfish. It’s human nature to want kids, and there are a lot of terrible illnesses besides bipolar disorder that people have to worry about when they are making the choice to have children. We’ve traced bipolar disorder in our family back to one woman in the mid-1800s. Had she not had children, hundreds of us would not be alive today. And with earlier and better diagnoses, more better treatment, better therapies, I don’t believe mental illness will be half the terror 200 years from now that it is today.

  8. My wife and I decided to not have biological children for many of these reasons. We both have bipolar. We decided to foster and adopt instead. We were worried that the state wouldn’t let us have a foster license if they knew we both had mental illnesses, which we are very open about. But they had no problem, and we’ve been fostering for 9 years now, mostly teenagers, but a few younger. No infants, we couldn’t handle that! We’ve adopted or are in pre-adoption for 7 of these kids. Out of about 37 kids total. 3 are living with us now, one adopted, 2 pre-adoptive.

    It’s actually been working out well. The kids in foster care have a much higher incidence of bipolar than the general public, about 50% in our experience. Many of the rest have depression, OCD, or in 2 cases early-onset schizophrenia. They flat out can not find foster homes to take some of these kids since they have to disclose that they have mental illness and had spent time in the hospital or group homes. Many foster homes just close there door to these kids. So they ask us and we take them. I think our perspective and experience with mental illness helps the kids a lot.

    I don’t think our mental illnesses bother or hurt the kids in any case. I just got out of the phosp after a week, I was badly suicidal. The kids came to visit me and engage in family therapy. I liked that they understood, all of them have been in the phosp at least once themselves.

    Anyway, it works well for us, but I think biological kids might have been a disaster.

  9. To those who are recommending that pregnant bipolar women adopt their kid out – unless it’s an open adoption where you will be peripherally involved I don’t know that this is a good idea. The likelihood of your genetic child being bipolar or otherwise mentally ill is 30% to 50% (see my other post for the cite on the 30%, I don’t know where people are getting the 50% but it is reasonable given that with two bipolar parents the rate is 70-75%). The average time to accurate diagnosis is 10-13 years, treatment in the meantime often making the disease worse, and then the average time to getting proper treatment/stability is, as I’m sure we’re all familiar, several years long for most of us, and if we’re lucky it holds. If the adoptive parents do not know or disregard this information it could be severely detrimental to the child. Disclosing this information makes it highly unlikely a non-relative would adopt your child, but I don’t know how you could ethically adopt out a kid with a high risk for bipolar without informing the prospective parents. They’d also (in the US at least) need to have pretty intense insurance and solid financial security to really be able to handle it well.

    http://www.theguardian.com/society/2012/jun/27/bipolar-disorder-diagnosis-survey
    https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/bipolar-you/201002/bipolar-disorder-snapshot-the-diagnosis
    Faster for inpatient/more severe patients:
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2796048/

  10. @E Sorry, double correction: Andrew Solomon has two genetic children, one of whom lives with him. His husband also has two biological kids but they live with their moms.

  11. @E important clarification to my previous post:

    “I do not hate my bipolar mother for having me. I do not think she should have.”

  12. I understand why those who were diagnosed post childbearing or who have children and are stable or relatively are feeling defensive about the right to have children. But please don’t say things like “my children gave me a reason to live” “my children made me happy” “I live for my kids” as if they were good things to say. That last is something people just say, I can ignore that, but if it’s literally true that’s not ok. The first two are danger danger danger red flags aplenty. That attitude is what hurts your kids. You cannot allow your kids to grow up believing they are in any way responsible for your emotional well being. They cannot be the only happiness you have. They cannot be the reason why you are not dead. If that is something you feel, if you are so unwell that those things are true, you should not have children or if you already do you need to be in family therapy (should be in it anyway) ASAP for damage control. Your kids cannot be your emotional crutch. You must fight constantly to make sure they don’t feel this way. The idea that because you can take care of infants, the idea that you are a good mom because they have clothes that fit and are clean and the house is clean isn’t enough. I know it’s valid important work and it’s not nothing, but it does not mean you are a capable parent. Those are the outward signs, the ones other people judge you on. They don’t mean your kids are ok. You can’t hide your illness from your kids. It isn’t possible to do so and you shouldn’t, they’ll blame themselves, try to fix you, and they’ll fail. And fail and fail. The posters who grew up with bipolar parents who weren’t hurt by it and those with well kids over the age of 30 (bipolar and not) are the ones to listen to here. Some of the standout advice: Family therapy by age 4 to teach your kids how to deal with your disease? Absolutely. Highly recommend for those battling addiction as well. 100% into treatment? Mandatory. Extensive support system? Yes. Stable partner? If at all possible and don’t count on it, support system needs to be stronger than marriage and more than 1 person. Someone to take your kids when you are sick? Mandatory.

    I do not hate my mother for having me. I do not think she should have. My brother is fine and I am bipolar and I worry for his kids. We are both her only reason for living and I am her absolute without question greatest agony. She sees my life (which is ok, for someone with treatment resistant bipolar II anyway, certainly far better than hers ever was) and she will never forgive herself. I will never have children. There is nothing about my genetic profile that is so special it needs to continue on, and much that never should. Whether or not I can physically care for a child is not the question, that’s far too low a bar.

    In the end it comes down to your personal judgement out of your own experiences of your own life and your knowledge of yourself, which is highly individual. No one can tell anyone else what to reproduce or not. That’s why we stopped sterilizing the mentally ill without their consent, that’s why abortion is legal. Many people knowingly have kids who are guaranteed to suffer from all sorts of diseases (or even abuse or neglect). But no one should do so without thinking about it very deeply first, planning it out in every possible way, and talking to everyone sensible around them.

    I also think using an egg donor and surrogacy should be an option on the table for anyone with a highly heritable severe genetic illness with a high lethality rate, regardless of the illness’s impact on quality of life of the child. I know it’s expensive, but so is supporting a bipolar child.

    Some links:

    Andrew Solomon, author of the Noonday Demon, who carries a bipolar II diagnosis now, on navigating parenting with a mood disorder and on pregnancy for depressed women, interview with Terry Gross. The critical bit for me is at 23:45, but really the entire thing is well worth listening to, and his books very much worth reading. He is tremendously supportive of depressed pregnant women.

    http://andrewsolomon.com/coverage/audio-npr-fresh-air-pregnant-women-with-depression/

    “I have felt very strongly that I have to protect my children from my depression itself, and also from their ability to alleviate it. I don’t want them to grow up thinking “Oh, when Daddy is depressed, I have to drop everything and go up and see him ’cause I make him feel better.” That’s a burden that I think it’s inappropriate to place on one’s children altogether and certainly on one’s young children.”
    (His kids are biologically his partners, adopted by him.)

    His article on pregnancy with a mood disorder from the NYT
    http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/31/magazine/the-secret-sadness-of-pregnancy-with-depression.html?_r=0

    Info on bipolar inheritance rates, Stanford University, 2008
    http://genetics.thetech.org/ask/ask266

  13. This is a sad, but true to me, article. I am now 40, with horrible OCD, the contamination kind, severe depression, panic attacks, anxiety, etc. I had always struggled with depressive symptoms and OCD “hit” me a few times in childhood but resolved quickly. Without going into a drawn out family history, my symptoms have become unbearable after suffering emotional traumas over the past few years. My mother’s horrible stage IV cancer battle and death, my father’s sudden death soon after, abuse from a now estranged (bipolar, delusional, personality disorders, all diagnosed) half brother, as well as abuse from my younger brother’s “wife” for 9 months while living with them, all killed me. I have no family and keep my distance from my younger brother, with whom I had been very close to in the past, because of his personality disordered, pathologically jealous wife. I know for a fact that part of my problems stem from genetic predisposition and the other stems from a dysfunctional family life. I am thankful that I don’t have kids; I can’t imagine bringing another human being into this cruel world with the very real knowledge of possibly inflicting my illnesses upon them in the future. I can barely function, and as bad as this sounds, I honestly believe I should have been one of my mother’s miscarriages. After everything I’ve been through and am now going through, my beliefs have changed.
    I still believe in a God, but not what is described in the bible ( I was raised in a Catholic household). How could God allow someone to suffer internally to this degree, as well as the trauma inflicted from others all at the same time? To take away my greatest love and friend, my mother, as well as my father soon after, to be left alone and in torment!? If I hear another “Christian” tell me that “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle,” I will scream. That is a crock; people commit suicide basically because they can’t take anymore. Good luck to all who suffer in silence with these STILL stigmatized mental illnesses.

  14. I have followed your post for about a year and appreciate
    Your insight but as far as this goes you are wrong! I have one child and after her I chose to be sterilized bc of the genetic factor. I had a wonderful doctor very supportive and my pregnancy went fine save some morning sickness I also breast feed for six months. My daughter is not deformed in anyway. She has literally saved my life, when I do have depression I keep myself alive knowing that my suicide would damage her forever. I take better care of myself knowing she needs me. I haven’t been hospitalized for 15 years, and that has nothing to do with luck. Making a blanket statement like that is wrong, my dtr will be able to advocate for others with mental illness if she choses to do so. I believe in what you’re trying to do but don’t tell others what their choices should be. That is a very personal choice made between a doctor a woman and her partner. Should all people with genetic illnesses be sterilized too?

  15. Women with bipolar need to stop having children.its wrong. We should be offered sterilization in our teens.
    Bipolar people shouldn’t parent. And a bipolar parent with a bipolar child is never going to work out.

  16. After reading your post it made me feel pretty sad. I have a form of ocd where I get reoccurring intrusive thoughts about the ones I love. I’m also diagnosed with many other things. I deal with all these issues without medication, because for me the medications make me sleep. I have learnt wonderful techniques in dealing with my issues, and they have helped my life tremendously. I want a baby one, and won’t let an “illness” stop me! I have delt with these issues since I was 16 (now 23) and am so in tune with my body that I can feel when I’m feeling out of control. Whether or not I ever do have a baby, as an adult I will take care and love whatever the future holds. Do not be afraid to ever have kids just because you have an illness. Actually, you sound a lot more level headed than many people who have babies. You sound a lot like I did when I was thinking that way… In my head, I was doing the responsible thing by not having children for the fact that I could go crazy, they could be crazy, etc. These sound like fears. I have a ton of fear which is why I have anxiety. The constant worry about EVERYTHING. Fear of driving, heights, commitment, losing control, going crazy, other people. I deal with this everyday and when the time is right, I’ll probably end up being an overprotective mom. I think us women need not be afraid! Excessive worry is fear that cannot happen. Breathe and enjoy life! Also, if you are anything like me where you are afraid of going crazy, or need to relax… Look up “asmr videos” on YouTube. They help me relax at night when the anxiety is worst. Good luck everyone! Xx

  17. I had the good fortune of finding a physician who took my concerns seriously about not wanting to procreate. But I wish the US allowed me to undergo a “corrective abortion” — that is, suicide — to fix the mistake that my mother made in not terminating her pregnancy (me). The Germans had an old saying to describe the mentally ill: Lebensunwertens leben, or “life unworthy of life.” Well, all I can say is Ich bin Lebensunwertens leben, I’m a lunatic and a POS, I should be put out of my misery…

    • Anonymous, just wanted you to know that you are not alone. I am a complete waste to society. I stay here only out of guilt of what it would do to my family which is completely ridiculous because they have never tried to understand what this is like and think I am a pos also.

  18. I don’t usually comment on posts like this, but I feel I should. I can understand why women with BP might choose not to have children, but I think a blanket statement that women with BP won’t be good mothers is hurtful.

    I have two sons, age 6 and 9. My husband and I planned to have them. I didn’t know I had BP 2 until two years ago. It can be hard for me, for my husband, and for our sons. I had postpartum depression and didn’t understand it. My symptoms got worse with each pregnancy. I’ve often thought about whether or not I would have made the same choice if I had known about my diagnosis before I got pregnant. I don’t know the answer.

    Of course it terrifies me that they may have BP 2 at some point. No parent wants to think that they might give their children an illness–but it happens. There are an infinite number of genetic illnesses that parents pass on to their children. Does this mean no one should have children because they might pass along a disease to them? I don’t know, but I do know I love my kids. And they love me. It is hard for them when I’m sick, but as a family we have developed systems and plans for when I’m not well. Self care, a strict diet, medication compliance, yoga/meditation, CBT, and support from family and friends has made a difference for me.

    Guess what? My kids, my husband, therapists, friends, family all tell me I am a great mother. They say my kids are lucky. I’m the lucky one. They’re great humans, and I hope that I have some part in that.

    I refuse to live my life in fear and I refuse to pass fear along to my sons for something that *might* happen. I choose to love them. To love myself. To teach them about unconditional love. I guess I have to belive.

  19. I have a few problems with your post. Obviously this post deals with your personal feelings about having children. However I really feel like you’ve throw some outdated, and incorrect information out there for other Bipolar women. Let me start by saying that I am 44 and have CHOSEN not to have children. I have not been faced with any sort of infertility so I don’t feel like saying I CAN’T have children is a true statement.
    I wonder if non bipolar people might wander across your post and stumble off and blindly spit out to other people, “oh those bipolars can’t have children! They all take medication that deforms their babies, and they’re all unstable and would make bad mothers”. I think your post written in the way it was spreads stigma. And really, don’t we have enough of that?
    Saying that all psych meds are in a category that is only recommended in life saving circumstances is not accurate. I say to women considering pregnancy, do research! All medication has a pregnancy category, look up your med, look for studies on your medications related to incidents of birth defects, and related to women who have breastfed safely. Look up information on Folic acid which is used to prevent birth defects. Dr’s constantly rip Bipolar women off medication without doing any research, yet I rarely see dr’s do the same with women who may suffer from a different disorder. I’ll use epilepsy as an example as my med is used for that same disorder. My particular med is known as the safest med for pregnancy for women with epilepsy, yet I hear of dr’s routinely taking bipolar women off the same med thus putting our lives and baby’s life at risk. Bipolar women are given the advice of “be strong and tough it out and skip your meds while pregnant”. A dr would never tell a diabetic, or epileptic to do something like that, why would Bipolar women be told something like that? Stigma, ignorance, lack of education. Research your medications ladies, and stand up for your right for equal care.
    As for postpartum and postpartum psychosis, I would say you may have to skip breastfeeding and take some of the big bad meds to fend that off. Every bipolar woman should have a plan in place for during pregnancy and most of all, aftercare. Will you take medication not safe for breastfeeding? Do you have a good support system? What if you have to be hospitalized, do you have an adequate support system, partner and such to help you through that possibility? Can you put a plan in place for possible emergencies where someone can take over for a few hours?
    As for whether we can make good mothers, I would ask: Are you stable? How long have you been stable? Are you compliant and responsible with your meds? Are you free or in solid recovery from drugs and/or alcohol? Do you have a stable, supportive and loving partner? Do you have family, friends, or a church to help you out? Are you in therapy consistently? Can you provide financially?
    For me, a lot of those questions I couldn’t answer to my satisfaction. So I personally chose not to have children and it is a heartbreaking choice for me. I would never immediately discourage other Bipolar women from having children due to Bipolar though. I would tell the all of the above ^^

  20. Just another perspective on this polemical topic. I am BP II currently pregnant with baby number 2. I was sick for a year after my first. It was awful, I resisted getting back on proper meds due to breastfeeding and nearly died because of it. I did recover though and in this pregnancy, am on my 2 main medications, one being Lithium. It was a difficult decision, but I was lucky enough to be able to consult with Mass General Women’s Mental Health (basically the top place for perinatal/postpartum psych) and the director said that new research says that Lithium is much safer than previously thought. Obviously not without risks, but relatively safe and much safer than going without in my case. Another note: my doctor at Hopkins Women’s Mental Health has said she has several patients breastfeeding on Lithium, that it can be done with great care if “one is with it enough.” So, yes, everyone is unique, every person’s bipolar is unique, but don’t give up without doing your research if you are able!

  21. Natasha,
    You must have been reading my mind when you wrote this post. I feel 100% the same as you do. I was diagnosed with bi-polar at 28 (I am now 32) and within the first 2 years from being diagnosed I spend 9 months in 6 or 7 admissions in hospital. I was first hospitalised with clinical depression that I could pin point started
    2 years earlier. That admission lasted for 3 months and consisted of meds, ect, cbt and talks with my psych and the nurses. Towards the end of that first admission I told my doctor that I didn’t want to have kids and explained by reasons why and he was 100% on my side. He even wrote a referral letter for gynecologists to agree to perform the surgery of having my tubes tied. I will make a point of saying that I was never interested in having kids before all of this and had felt that way since my early teens. I like kids and my 3 closest friends are all mothers with 9 kids between them and while I loved all of them I never got clucky. I had always told me family and friends that I never wanted kids but the only ones that knew I wouldn’t change my mind were the 3 friends I mentioned. Everybody else told me once I meet the right guy I will change my mind. By giving the reason of bi-polar being the reason for not having kids people opinions changed and 9 out of 10 said I was dong the right thing. One group of people gave me a hard time about my decision and that was other patients at the hospital. At no point did I say that woman with mental illness shouldn’t have children and I admire greatly those who do do it but I know myself better than anyone else and I wouldn’t cope with a baby/child//teenager. I was told that I was selfish and that my life will never be complete without one. One lady is particular was very scathing to me which I thought was odd since only 1 of her 3 children will have anything to do with her. I ended up in a funk about their reaction as I thought that they would be the most understanding but they ended up being the most judgemental. There were a couple of them on my side but they were the ones that I had struck up a friendship with and had seen parts of my personality that I tried to keep hidden.

  22. Natasha,

    I feel sorry for you if this is how you truly feel about having children. This is the most depressing and disappointing post I’ve ever read of yours. I feel like this post is you trying to convince yourself that opting out of kids is the “right” thing. I think it’s clear that a lot of your readers look up to you and take what you say as fact, and in this case, I feel you are steering your readers in the wrong direction. You must have been terribly depressed when you wrote this. Maybe you wouldn’t be so consumed by your moods if you were lucky enough to have a child of your own. The way it changes your life and sense of purpose is immeasurable.

    If you and your spouse are ugly, or not intelligent, should you not have kids because they will most likely be ugly and probably have a hard time in school and not a bright future?

    I have two children, one is 6 and one is 16 months. I got off meds for both pregnancies and was fine. I breasted my 16 month old for 10 months still off meds. I think it’s mind over matter that got me through it. Me wanting to do the best I could for my kids. After having my first child, people would say to me, “I’ve never seen you look so happy.” And I truly was. There are no words for what joy a new baby brings.

    Also equally important, having children gave me purpose. When I tried to kill myself(before kids) I would say to myself that I am worthless and people would be better off without me. After having children, I know that is 100% false. I AM worth something now and my children would absolutely NOT be better off without me. If something happened to me and either my husband alone or my parents were raising my kids, they would not be better off. So anytime a suicidal thought may cross my mind, it’s stopped abruptly when I remind myself of my purpose. That’s huge for me.
    Breastfeeding for 10 months gave me a huge boost of self esteem. It was not always easy, but what a sense of accomplishment. And for someone like me who has little self esteem, thats really important.

    When depression hits, it’s unable to consume me because there are things I HAVE to do. I have to feed my kids, I have to take them to school, have to change diapers, etc.etc. Things like this help me from not falling into a black hole of depression. The things I have to do on a daily basis don’t let me get so deep into that black hole, and help pull me out of it. And when the mania comes, I have a giggling 16 month old from mommy being so happy and silly, and a 6 year old who is thrilled that mommy has a ton of energy to go on that long bike ride that she’s been asking to go on.

    So I must say,, for others who find this article terribly negative, depressing, and if it steers you in the direction of not having kids of your own one day, please don’t let it. My first pregnancy was unplanned but it was the biggest blessing of my life.

    • Samantha; I feel the need to reply to your recent post. I am a mother of 3 children aged 10 and 18 and was diagnosed bipolar after their birth. Firstly, I don’t think that in her original post Natasha was trying to steer people. It was clear that she was writing about her personal point of view. Then secondly you compare bi polar with people being “ugly or unitelligent” ( whatever that means!!) How can you compare being “ugly” (which in itself is so judgemental as a word) with having a serious genetic, possibly fatal lifelong ILLNESS? Thirdly you make a comment about “maybe you would be less depressed if you were blessed enough to have a child”. I feel pretty outraged by that comment! Having a child is about making an informed choice, nothing to do with being “blessed”. I, like Natasha, would never tell someone what to do but would I will say is please respect and support the choices that people with bipolar make, whatever their position. ( I too gave birth to 3 children easily, breast fed all three of them for a year. My eldest has just been diagnosed as “probable bipolar” and the idea that she will suffer what I have suffered is killing me)

    • I completely agree that this posts steers readers in the wrong direction. I have a baby girl who’s 7 weeks also unplanned and she’s the best thing that’s ever happened I wouldn’t change it for the world. I feel I have purpose in my life now and a reason to go on like you. The joy my little girl brings me I can’t even put into words. I decided not to breastfeed though and go straight back on my medication. I don’t think anyone woman with bipolar should be put off having children if they want them by one article. Which I feel gives a lot of misinformed information. I remember reading this article when I was pregnant and finding it upsetting and I left a comment with my two cents and somebody commented back basically saying I’m glad your pregnancy is going well but if you had another serious illness that you could pass on to your children would you still have them. Just because I or anyone with bipolar doesn’t necessarily mean there children are going to have bipolar. I actually detest this article and the message it gives out.

  23. I have bipolar and found out I’m 6 weeks pregnant. I’m 33 years old. I found out (too late) that one of my medications caused my birth control pill to be less effective. I’ve only been diagnosed for a couple years and haven’t found meds that work for me yet. Last night after I crashed out after being awake for 38 hours my fiancée said the dogs were barking and going nuts. I didn’t hear a thing. How would I hear a baby crying in the middle of the night? I have horrible depression and don’t even have the energy to wash my hair some days. I feel like a failure for admitting this, but I don’t think I’d be capable of caring for an infant. So in the best interests of everyone involved I’ve decided to have an abortion. It wasn’t an easy decision, but I can’t even care for myself. My fiancée works 14 hours a day and I’d be the one taking care of the baby 90% of the time.

    • Hi Jennifer,

      I’m so sorry you are in that position. I know it must be very difficult. I respect your choice and how you are putting the needs of the unborn child in front of your own. I can’t say for sure what I would do in your situation but I think it would be the same thing.

      – Natasha Tracy

    • Hi Jennifer, what a painful time for you. Only you can decide what is best for you and the baby, but be sure to fully talk to people who can advise and support you what ever your decision. I posted on this site a while ago about how difficult I have found it raising my children and your concerns are certainly well founded. But there are so many solutions out there… What about adoption? Is it something you would consider? I wish you luck. xx

  24. I am 3rd generation treatment resistant bipolar type 2. Stemming from a grandmother with borderline personality disorder. Every member within the direct family line suffers from some type of severe mental illness. I made the decision in my 20’s to not have children. At 36, I would make a great mother. 7 years of therapy, meds, and a strong constitution have kept me alive and taught me how to manage my disorder, how to smooth over the rough areas so as not to make outsiders uncomfortable, and of course -how to work the medical system. I have chosen not to have children as I would not with my constant inner chaos on anyone. It diminish’s the quality of life you will live. It’s not often stated, but it is the realistic outcome of severe mental illness. It is with love and compassion that I will contain this disease and keep it to myself. For anyone facing this same question in their 20’s… I won’t lie. In your 30’s that biological clock beats fierce and it gets hard. But don’t doubt the collection of your past experiences which prompted the decision to begin with. Not passing on your pain and suffering will always be the right thing to do.

  25. Hi guys!

    I deal with guilt involving this sometimes. Well, I’m bipolar, it’s normal for me to fight guilt about something most of the time. I feel myself to be selfish for choosing to have children when things get super hard. I decide to fight that guilt. I fight thoughts all day, everyday. I have two children. My oldest daughter is 9, and my other daughter is 3. I took smaller doses while pregnant, but took my meds the entire time. I prepared a my support team and health care team to hold me accountable. I made an obsessive list of what ifs, and updated my plans for them regularly. What is the reason people even want kids…BP or not?

    ….I do know this. She draws. My oldest child drew objects before she could write her name. She likes it AND she’s terribly good at it. As a mother, my cynicism gives me strong urges to pull out a income chart for artists, let her read blogs about the artists “struggle” to afford to eat even Ramen noodles…I started looking for sitcom episodes in which the joke about broke artists with no job is only funny, because everyone knows it. Seven years later, (tonight actually) I look under the mound of pillows that she sleeps on like a princess, only to find what I would never think to consider contraband; 6 novels, a mural, a dictionary…and a few other unfinished GORGEOUS drawings. This is what she’s willing to lose sleep over. I talked to her about balance and the importance of sleep (naturally), but I felt a freedom from my tummy…and it wasn’t anxiety induced IBD. Ha!
    Instead, I remembered my first passion. It was simply to be a mom. This is what I was willing to lose sleep over and my sleep needs me Lawd! I’m hard on myself. I’m hard on myself because I care. I’ve failed them ( never endangered them) as I’ve failed myself, and countless others dealing with my own BP mysteries and receiving bad feedback from terrible mothers. At some point though I found that I’m a lot like most other mommies. It’s not because of a mental illness, it’s simply because I’m human. Those mommies cry (often). Those mommies are tired. Those mommies are stinky, have chunks of hair missing from an accidental nap in the craft room, those mommies made grilled cheese sandwiches instead of four course dinners, they missed bring your mommy to school day, their clothes don’t fit somedays because their hormones are making them fat and sweaty or too thin and overly fatigued. If I’m gonna be fatigued anyways, might as well give it a try.
    I absolutely have found a new hope on this site, it is so honest and amazing and we are all from the same cool planet. Most of all, I’m empowered! …to accomplish anything! That’s the most paralyzingly part, forgetting where and your power is and that we can USE it when the time presents itself. I wanted to be a mommy (I do have a husband, he came free with the kids). Some women people shouldn’t. Some women,despite any illness at all
    should NOT be left with so much as a cat. With anything though, I planned. I took advantage of every resource I could. I asked for third MD opinions. I had to make sure that on any day, up or down that I could be prepared for this challenge. It takes planning. My bipolar BFF took out a business loan and started her own business. I refuse to allow this BP BS tell me I can’t experience motherhood and raise kids very well. It’s what was in my heart to be.
    The parts of us that suck, are NOTHING to the parts of us that defy human awesomeness. I live for them right now.

    All of us have a “baby”. Just maybe not in the form of a life. Maybe it’s a career. Maybe a commitment to lose weight. We all have something that we are willing to lose hours to. For people without children, this is just as risky of a loss as a person.

    Both girls were born at 40 weeks. No complications with me. No complications with baby. Both of them were right 9lbs. Healthy. Only one allergy. Both of them are very nurturing, very smart, confident, transparent, well-adjusted, respectful kids. This has nothing to do with the days that they get that 4 course meal. Nope. It’s me and God ( and my husband too…a little. I guess). I teach them; how to learn, how to problem solve, how to be honest, resilient, and introspective. My oldest, like many people, tells me that she can feel my love coming from my body. My mommy mess ups are similar to most mommies when I’m at my best or my worst. It’s just for a different reason. I know it was taking a chance. Most people are willing to do that for things they passion about.
    It’s not easy. Never said that stuff. Uh uhn. Nope. My support team is super scant. I have no car during the day. My husband works too much. 80% of the time I’m alone with them. I cry. I have random panic attacks and days where I hate everyone and everything they stand for, yes. My love for them moves me. Maybe not out of the bed on that day, but enough to make the decision to see my psych and not throw the box of tissue at his peering eyes, and never touch treatment again. If you can’t be 100% about the commitment to treatment, then yes you are an unfit mother. You are an unfit person.
    -Ty
    PS. I’m soooooooooooooooooo depressed. Fighting the urge to buy a plane ticket to Mexico. My oldest says that they are down there chopping people in pieces, drug cartel stuff, ect. She MUST not know who I am. :-)

  26. For Michel. I do feel your pain. I do not consider myself an “unfit mother” but I do have “periods” where I am totally unfit, and even dangerous.. Doing every thing I can to recognising these periods before the harm is done is the key. I do have an “emergency” procedure in place ( too long to explain here) if I feel an episode coming on.. Until now I have managed to keep my children emotionally and physicaally safe and happy , my eldest is studying to be a Dr and the youngest are bright and well adjusted. And I hold down a senior post. But some weeks are hell. Have you been in family therapy with your daughter AND your grandchidren despite their young age? We started family therapy when my youngest was only 4, finding ways for everyone to understand and cope with what was going on. It has been a life saver. My children say Mummy has “mental diabètes” and sometimes her brain goes to high or too low and the Drs need to help! Don’t stop loving your daughter. She needs you so much. Even though she can’t show it at the moment.

  27. I have a 30 year old daughter that is seriously bipolar. She has two children, ages 6 and 8 both in grammar school. I had legal custody of my firstborn grandchild because my daughter suffered serious post partum depression to the point she did not want to hold of care for her baby. Three years later, my daughter managed to get an attorney “PRO BONO” costing her nothing because she wanted to “mother” her child, meanwhile having given birth to my second grandchild. Eventually the legal battle came to an end because I could no longer finance the fight which ultimately cost me over $20,000. The state of SD is a “mother state.” Meaning the state of SD would rather place a child with their natural mother than remove the child from their custody, WHERE THE STATE OF SOUTH DAKOTA HAS SERIOUSLY FAILED MY TWO GRANDCHILDREN. My daughter is UNFIT to raise her children. She is continuously hospitalized for her psychotic episodes. Her husband was somewhat supportive of her mental illness at first, but has since left her. My daughter lashes out at everyone in the worst imaginable way because she cannot properly care for her children. She knows that the possibility of losing her children and having them taken away is an absolute real possibility. She places blame for everything on me and everyone else. She takes absolutely no responsibility for her self or her own actions. My two grandchildren suffer emotional abuse as a result. They love their mother but they do not understand that their mother is mentally ill. My daughter lies to the both of them and threatens them that if they “talk” about anything then the police will come and take them away. She tells them what to say at school, etc. and mind warps the both of them and brainwashes the both of them. My daughter NEVER SHOULD HAVE had children. My daughter cannot live a normal life. She lives in poverty and relies upon Section 8, the food stamp program and strangers off of Craig list for handouts for her survival. I do not think anyone that is bipolar has any business having children. It is a severe mental illness. I know how it is affecting my two grandchildren whom are now both labeled ADHD because they are being “mishandled” by a mentally unstable individual. My two grandchildren are being “treated” for my daughter’s illness because it is affecting the both of them so severely mentally and emotionally that they trash their classrooms at school, refuse to go home when school is dismissed to the point the school is calling the police to “witness” the situations. The school has taken photographs of the destruction of my grandson’s classroom after he trashed the entire classroom, turning desks upside down, etc. My bipolar daughter does not know how to exhibit any real love for either of her children. I have made many reports to the CPS and pleaded for intervention and the state of SD continues to FAIL MY GRANDCHILDREN. I feel sick to my stomach all of the time and my heart is breaking for these two children. Just because someone is bipolar doesn’t mean they are stupid. My daughter managed to get her Associate Degree in Criminal Justice which she pursued in all her attempts to manipulate the law to her own benefit. My daughter admits she is mentally sick and admits that if anyone knew the severity of her illness they would take both of her children away. Meanwhile, both of my grandchildren are suffering in all of the madness. Their father never even comes to visit them anymore. They are completely isolated in the madness of my daughter’s insanity. My daughter refuses to allow me to see my grandchildren or to spend time with them. Always accusing me of trying to “take her kids away again.” If I could do that, I would have. I am not going to lie. She is a manipulative psychotic and my grandchildren do not deserve to live in her hell. My heart aches for my grandchildren. My daughter calls me filthy names, places blame on me for everything, lies about things she says I have done to her in the past, and even believes her own lies. She screams out in front of my place of residence at the top of her lungs like an outraged maniac and pounds on my front door, sometimes crying in her outrage. Her behavior is so twisted I feel I can no longer encounter her for my own well-being and physical safety. I do to bed every night wondering if my grandchildren are even still alive. The police, the CPS, my grandchildren’s pediatrician…NO ONE will do anything and they all lack the intelligence and education to see right through the insanity. My grandchildren’s pediatrician has even made “appearances” to my grandchildren’s school pleading that my grandchildren act the way they do at school because they are ADHD. There seems to be no end to the insanity! The way my grandchildren are acting out is a direct result of their mother’s mental illness and they have absolutely NO OUTLET for their emotional disturbances because of it. I don’t know what to do anymore, and I am at a total loss. I know the truth, and the truth is that my daughter’s bipolar disorder is destroying my two grandchildren’s lives and any hope they could have. It sickens me and all I have been able to do is pray to God and cry myself to sleep in utter despair and hopelessness. There is nothing I can do, and I can no longer go on enduring this insanity, even if it means doing what my daughter’s husband has done which is abandoning the entire situation. I am scared to death for my grandchildren!!!

    • Hi Michelle,

      I think it’s really unfair of you to say in your post bipolar women shouldn’t have children. Your daughter clearly does not manage her illness. I’m 32 weeks pregnant and would be so upset and offended if people said to me I shouldn’t have children. Since my diagnosis I’ve had no hospital admissions and lead a completely normal life because I work extremely hard at staying well. I know everything I need to do to maintain my wellness as do most people with bipolar who get the proper care and help. It’s just some choose to not do the things they need to do to stay well, as some bipolar people do enjoy the chaos, I do not it enjoy it! I have no doubt in my mind that I will be a good mother as do my physcaiatrist, therapist, GP, partner and family. I think it’s unfair because of your experiences with your daughter to tar everyone with the same brush. I also think this whole article gives off a bad message to women who have bipolar. If you take care of yourself and do all the necessary things to maintain your wellness and relieve you of your bipolar symptoms then there is nothing stopping you from having a family and leading a perfectly normal life. Bipolar doesn’t define me as a person nor will I ever allow it to. I certainly won’t ever let it stop me living the life I want to lead.

      • Rom.. fantastic that you are doing so well with your bi polar, and pray to god that continues. But the problem is you simply do not know what the future holds. That’s the bummer with bipolar. My major psychotic épisodes and hospitalisations started in my early 40s. I really do not want to judge or be unnecessarily negative about having children I am just trying to say we need to all think of the child’s interest and not our own overwhelming desires. Would you risk having children if you had another type of genetic, potentially life threating disease?

  28. I am extremely hurt and outraged by this post. I was diagnosed Bipolar I when I was eighteen, I’ve been hospitalized numerous times with various shades of episodes. Long before I was ever categorized as Bipolar and “crazy,” I knew I wanted to be a mommy. As women, we are genetically built for having babies. And, at a young age it is onset that we want our own bundle of joy. I’ve had so-called friends and even people who hardly knew me tell me that I would not make a “fit” mother due to my mental illness. I am sorry, but no one but God will be the judge and ultimate decision maker if one day I am blessed with children of my own. He blessed me with such, at times, suffocating illness, I know with all my being that one day I will make the best mother. I don’t allow others to run my life, that is my sole responsibility. Mental illness will always be present in my life, but I’d much rather take the time each and everyday to embrace it rather than sit and think how miserable I’d be if I were just plain “normal.” I believe you have to keep fighting, you cannot lose the battle, that would only prove everyone to be right. Each day I wake up with a smile on my face and a bounce in my step because God saved me even though I am not PERFECT in the eyes of most.

    Kindest Regards,

    -Lauren-

  29. I’m bipolar type I and blessed. Through self-discipline and self-unconditional positive regard I’ve found a way to not just cope with my “illness,” I have embraced my gift. Touched by fire and I love it. We’re in talented company. Eminem, Virginia Woolf, Catherine Zeta Jones, Demi Lovato. I’m not going to rob the world of beauty, and if my future wife is bipolar, too… women are well equipped to give birth. Using our gift as an excuse for ANYTHING is unacceptable. Have some faith in yourself

    • Getting pregant, carrying a child (or in my case twins) giving birth and breast feeding is the easy part. I sailed through that! It is the ability to manage the next 20 + years, even with our “gift”, which is the real issue.

    • Being well equipped to give birth, does not mean being well equipped to rear a healthy stable child. Being bipolar is definitely NOT a “gift.”

  30. The risks of genetically passing the bipolar gene to a child are hotly debated and the 50 percent figure I have seen on one of these threads seems, according to research, to be far too high. But whatever the statistics….(and yes I do not underestimate the critiical need to evaluate the risk factors and take the appropriate specialist advice before becoling pregant) why is fostering or adopting a good alternative. The issue is about being able to raise and care for a child responsibly, constantly and lovingly to the best of our ability. I previously posted on this thread about my daily battles to raise my 3 amazing children since I have found myself divorced and with no family network to support me. My bipolar for some reason has recently, after many years stable, spiralled out of control and I have been in and out and hospital to literally save my life. I do everything humanely possible to nourish my family and help them become all that they deserve to be to be happy in life but in addition to the daily care I also find myself asking the question what would happen in the horrific event of me not being here tomorrow. And if my children had been adopted or fostered why would should they be put through that? What’s the difference? I do not mean to sound negative. Am in a low phase and will probably have a different perspective once I am on an even keel! Great blog; and love and support to all you bipolars, spouses and families out there wresting with such life changing décisions. (My children are twins 10 and a 17 year old who has just been diagnosed as “probable” bipolar.) They were born before I was diagnosed properly.

  31. I realize this is an older post, however just showed on my feed… as for meds during pregnancy and breastfeeding- Dr. Tom Hale has excellent resources and published research about many psy meds and effects of, though I have found most physicians are hardly aware of. His site is http://www.infantrisk.org

    As a wife to a spouse with Bipolar I, I appreciate your blog and insights very much. We have likely found the genetic component in our family that contributes to the Bipolar /Adhd inheritance. Genetics is like early astrology… though it provides a unique opportunity to perhaps identify the gene and undergo pre implantation genetics. We found the gene after 3 children, 2/3 inherited and show probable signs of MI. We will take it day by day, but if the desire for them to later have children arises, we will encourage genetic counseling and pre pregnancy planning.

    And a side note, as the well spouse, I couldn’t agree more with the need for a support system. My husband is very unpredictable in his ability to care for kids, it is hard on the kids and myself…

  32. I was wondering if anyone would care to comment on the situation of a couple considering having a child when both of the biological parents have bipolar 2.

    • Hi Nico,

      I can’t tell anyone what to do with their lives. This is a personal decision but I would never have a child with two bipolar parents. Not ever. Not only would I worry about the parents relapsing (if they are stable at this point) but I would worry to no end about the offspring. You have a 50% chance of having a serious mental illness with _one_ bipolar parent, let alone two.

      I say adopt, or better yet foster a child if you really feel the need for one. You can share your love in many ways, it doesn’t have to be through your genes.

      – Natasha Tracy

      • hi , natasha, your attitude is great. being bipolar my personal opinion is dont pass our illnes to our children.

  33. I was diagnosed with Bipolar 2 at a very young age. This led to sexually promiscuous behavior, and I ended up pregnant at the age of 17 (unintentionally). I had my child at 18. I spent the entire pregnancy not taking medications because I couldn’t and was in psychiatric wards many times to ensure that everything was okay.

    I was young and relatively stupid, and the pregnancy was just awful. The only positive side of being bipolar and pregnant was that I did learn some very valuable ways to cope. Of course, I need my medications and I am on them now, but even the meds can’t fix everything and when I experience fluctuations in my moods, those coping skills and the CBT I learned while I was pregnant really helped.

    However, if you are bipolar, I urge you not to go through what I did UNLESS you have a very solid support system. Thankfully, I did.

    As far as bipolars being good parents, I think they can be. I’m not perfect, and no mother is, but I have done everything in my power to ensure his happiness. I have raised him by myself for most of my life. He is an intelligent and happy young boy. A lot of this might be luck, but I believe having my son was a motivation to stick to my therapy and my medications. I fought harder because I no longer had myself to look after.

    However, my mom has some legal rights over him because I am aware that if my moods get out of control, someone will need to care for him. That doesn’t make me a bad mother, if a mother was physically ill and couldn’t care for herself or her child, nobody would judge her for having a family member take that child in. In cases where I can’t control my moods, my mom takes him for a while until I straighten out. My son knows about my illness because I explained it to him the best that I could for his age, and he understands that I sometimes have him go with his grandma because I love him and not the other way around.

    So with proper support and resources, it is possible to raise a child and be bipolar. If you don’t have that support, then it isn’t a good idea at all. I was fortunate and I did. However, I think adoption should always be looked at before pregnancy if you really want to have a child and you are bipolar.

  34. I just wanted to let you all know, I’m 23. I’ve struggled my entire teen years and adult life with bipolar1 accompanied by borderline personality disorder. I had my first child when I was 22. I always wanted to be a mother. I have a strong feeling that is exactly why I was put on this earth. He’s now almost 9 months and the happiest sweetest baby ever. Yes I have a sickness, but my love for him outweighs any bad. I even struggled with ppd BUT it never affected the way I cared for him and his needs. He always comes first, his happiness is my happiness and I’ve never experienced a joy greater then being a mother and I don’t think just because you have this illness you shouldn’t have kids. Its our gift as women! Yes its very stressful at times, but the reward is sooo much greater. Don’t let your illness define you girls! Prepare yourself and know you will have some big battles ahead, but let the warrior in you shine! Y’all laying down the sword and giving in is far “crazier” to me than having kids. He has actually pushed me to want better for myself because in turn I know it will be better for him. You not having a child because of bipolar, is like saying a diabetic shouldn’t have a child either. It is an illness, not a sentence! Just know it really is harder for us than most new moms but that makes our bond that much better. I know I have the ability to love and care for him as he needs, even if I can’t myself from time to time (lack of appetite, hypermania, so on n so on) but I use my hypermania as fuel to do more for my son. Its hard when you come down but I look around and see all I actually accomplished and I feel a sense of pride. You own the sickness, IT DOESN’T OWN YOU! good luck all! And I hope you have a wonderful motherhood/childless life. Whichever is best for you.

    • @Missbhope, you made my day! After reading this blog entry of “Natasha” I felt an overwhelming sadness. At first, not for myself, but for the author. Then I felt anger. This is someone who writes about having bipolar disorder on a regular basis and is considered an “expert”. Why would she dis-motivate women from having a baby when it is completely possible, especially for someone who is knowledgeable about their mental health? So I came to the conclusion that I will not feel sad for her, or myself, and I will not be angry at her posts anymore. It’s a free country and she has the right to express her voice, as much as I don’t like it. You do what is important to you. And I believe that when someone plans to have a baby, the most important thing to them will be to give that baby everything they need to live a happy life. With technology nowadays, not giving yourself the chance to have a baby is rather “crazy” within itself. And if your baby just so happens to have bipolar disorder, then more power to them. We’ve contributed enough to society to know that we are needed, valued, and can be happy. Anything else is just an excuse. This goes for any women with any other diseases, like cancer.

  35. Hello, I am new here and would like to join in on the discussion about bipolar and motherhood. What a painful and sensitive subject. No to women are the same and I am actually not arguing in favour or against having a child if you know you have bipolar. I would however like to tell my story. I have 3 children 17, and 10 year old twins. My bipolar was only diagnosed after the birth of my twins despite décades of depression and other problems. Despite the fact that for 10 years now I have been religiously taking my meds and expertly supported I arrive today in a position where I am a single mum ( you may feel your marriage is strong but please think through what will happen if one day it isn’t); my eldest daughter who is a genious has been diagnosed as a probable bipolar 1 and her med school applications are now all at risk, I regularly require in care treatment sometimes up to weeks as a time and my twins are pushed off to family and friends; I have been diagosed as menopausal which has ( probably) contributed to my bipolar orbiting out of control, my children can no longer have their friends home because the house is not clean. I love my children with all my heart. I would die for them. I would kill for them. But I ask myself everyday if I am hurting them. Please reply sensitively to my comments. Life is hard at the moment. Peace to all.

  36. I hear and respect what you’re saying, but I don’t feel what you’re saying. I’m 34 and have Bipolar I with psychotic episodes throughout my 20’s, and if I don’t take care of myself, I’m sure I’d experience psychosis again, but I grew up, accepted my illness, learned to take care of myself, learned to ask for help when I needed it. I have a good life today filled with friends, family, husband and the sweetest little girl on the planet. She’s the centre of my world, and I’ve always been a full time very responsible parent, by no means perfect, but I try my best with her best interests always leading the way. I guess what I’m trying to get to is a question you should ask yourself, which is would you rather that your mother didn’t have you? I’ve asked myself that question a few times and even though I experienced the most severe symptoms of Bipolar, psychosis, and Post traumatic stress disorder, abuse, and alcoholism, deep down I favoured having life with the good and the bad than no life at all.

  37. In reply to Maggie – I have bipolar II also and I totally disagree, I don’t think this post stigmatises bipolar at all, I know you want to have a child, so do I – but you don’t have a “right” to just have a child if you are in no position to give it a good life. You could adopt, it’s selfish to get pregnant just because you want your child to be genetically yours when you know you could pass on the illness that so disrupts your own life. I’m not saying bipolar women shouldn’t have children, but all the concerns on this post are the ones I have been considering, and frankly, just because I want to have a child and be “like everyone else” doesn’t mean I can, I’m not like everyone else, I have bipolar and I have to consider what would be best for the child, not me.

  38. I’ve read many of your posts as they always see to pop up when doing research on Bipolar. This post, although dated from long ago, does not sit well with me. I am a 30 year-old woman diagnosed with Bipolar II and have recently been struggling with my desire to start a family after four years of a stable marriage, ten years total together with my now husband, and 2.5 years of my official diagnoses and medication(s). To each his/her own…However,I found your post overly pessimistic (and a tad dogmatic) particularly given the fact that your posts are so widely read by individuals seeking advice, information, or some comic relief. When I spoke to my doctor the other day about my desire to get pregnant and be medication free, she told me that this probably is not in the cards for me and that I might want to consider adoption. I refuse to be paralyzed by my Bipolar Disorder. There have been times when I have been stigmatized. I refuse to be stigmatized. And I refuse to be paralyzed. In my opinion, your post stigmatizes Bipolar Disorder for women. It gives others ammunition to say, “she will be an unfit parent” or “she should not be allowed to have kids.” I think it is a very negative perspective. It is your perspective. However, as blogger that is well known in the Bipolar community, I think it is a poor perspective to share with the world.

  39. I have b2, was diagnosed when I was 17. I have been med compliant since 23. I suffered a great deal from 17-23, not understanding my diagnosis. Quite a few consequences in my regarding the denial of my b2. Once I decided to stop the cycle, I educated myself accepted that there are a few things I have power over and decided to exercise them. The first being my medication and my daily schedule.! I have been lucky enough to not have a major depressive episode or hypomanic episode. I am vigilant and very protective of my schedule. I have a child now 6. I was completely stable with only Wellbutrin during my pregnancy. However the moment I delivered I bottle feed and went immediately back on my lithium and antidepressant (the very day I delivered ). I am do thankful to have my child. I did not have any post partum depression. I made sure to utilize my support group to help. However my psych tells me I am lucky and an anomaly with my b2 , remaining to be conpminat

  40. I have bipolar (otherwise unspecified), I have two healthy, wonderful children, and never had post partum depression, my children, have no psychological problems, children’s father and I are still married and happy. I feel this website is swaying the beliefs of many young women, who can infact have children and be happy. Why fear not being happy, does that not destroy the chances of persuing anything more that can bring joy into our lives? I do not understand how such an article can even be taken seriously. Please, anyone who is reading this, just take it with a grain of salt. No matter what may hinder your happiness, never stop striving to achieve it regardless! Just please be responsible in doing so. Thank you

  41. I am bipolar type 1 and as of today 13 weeks pregnant. My pregnancy was a complete surprise albeit a happy one and I immediately went cold turkey off lithium. My doctor said that I came off it so early I’m at no risk of complications from taking lithium.
    I found your post extremely sad to read. It was full of so much negativity and not all the information you gave was entirely accurate. I have actually found the symptoms ass ovulated with my bipolar have lessened since I’ve been pregnant and mentally I feel great. I have a lot of support and pregnancy plan in place if things do start to slide.
    If I was less informed about pregnancy and bipolar after reading your post I would probably saying I should never have children.
    I think that being bipolar should not stop you becoming a mother if that’s what you want. When bipolar is managed it’s not that much of an issue. Now I have impending motherhood I will do all the things I need to do to stay well. A big part of staying well I find are knowing triggers. Being bipolar does not mean that your automatically going to be a bad mother or not capable of motherhood and if you want to be a mother it certainly shouldn’t stop you.

  42. While I respect your decision to not have children, there is a lot of misinformation in your post, most particularly about needing to stop meds. Great information about mental illness (including bipolar) in pregnancy can be found through the Mass general site:

    http://womensmentalhealth.org/

    I used it extensively in my pregnancy (I’m bipolar II) and had a consult with the doctors there.

  43. I was fortunate and had an excellent psychiatrist for 10 years and when I told her I wanted to get pregnant though she never fully agreed with my decision she got me to the lowest level medication as she safely could. The strangest thing happened, my mood stabilized and actually improved when I was pregnant and breast feeding. My husband thought that was great! After 6 months of breast feeding my doctor told me it was time to go back on my full dose of medication, my moods went back to the constant up and down. But I love my daughter, there are no side affects from any medication I took when I was pregnant. After about 2 or 3 years people who can’t mind there own business began to ask when I was going to have another I just smiled. At year four I got my tubes tied. I know my husband would have liked to have more children but he knows I am only able to handle one. When I am down the black hole my husband takes over and keeps her with him, she knows sometimes Mommy gets sick and has to sleep sometimes. But when I am on the suicidal edge she keeps me alive because I know what happens to children who’s Mother suicides. My mother is bi-polar and she had 5 children and we all survived. I think it’s up to the individual and a personal choice for everyone.

  44. Great post, Natasha. I wish more people–men and women–would think carefully about parenthood before they take the leap.

    Having children in our society is a very different prospect from having children in a traditional society. It is very, very difficult to be a good parent today. “Kindergarten teacher” and “concert violinist” are _great_ careers for the few people who are well suited to those jobs. They would be terrible careers for most of us. In the modern world, parenting falls into the same category–a great specialist career for the few who are well suited.

  45. To all the women grappling with this issue, perhaps my story will provide another perspective. I honour the fact that you are thinking clearly about the issue of responsibility in Motherhood with your condition, and in the end you absolutely know what is best for you.

    I am a twenty year old young woman who lost a mother to suicide from this condition. Am I ‘messed-up’? A little bit, I won’t deny. But only to the extent that I have minor attachment issues and minor depression on occasion. I am in university, about to graduate and travel the world. I have had some issues in my interpersonal life resulting from the trauma of severed attachment, taking care of my Mother in my childhood, and abuse.

    HOWEVER: Did I love my Mother to pieces, through and through? Can I think of a single thing I wouldn’t do to have her back? No. She was a character, and she was a little nutty, but she was my Mother, and no where is it written that Mothers are supposed to be perfect. In the depressive state of the disorder I know you guys aren’t thinking clearly, but when my Mother commenced in her suicide she expressed in her note that she just didn’t feel she was worthy or Motherhood, she was ashamed of the job she had done. Can you imagine how that made me feel? I didn’t CARE that there were hard times, I just wanted her back.

  46. I am now 51 yrs young and my daughter is now 29. I told her I am sorry I didn’t mean to give her bipolar. Had I known before I was pregnant with her, I probably wouldn’t have had any children. My daughter, said MOM, STOP THAT KIND OF TALK! She said she has lots to be thankful for, including a husband that loves her dearly, amonst many family and friends that she will manage her bipolar her way, without chemicals presscriptions. She told me she loves life and thanked me for bringing here into this world.

  47. I had my daughter when I was 23-years old. I didn’t know I was bipolar, but knew I had some kind of mental health issues. I had deep depression afterwards and even psychosis. I was in and out of relationships but always kept positive towards my daughter. I taught her to love herself, her beautiful hair, her long beautiful neck……I stuck up for her always. She grew up just fine…..she too says she is bipolar, but so far, she’s able to control it with a little Xanax and lots of maryjane…..at least it’s natural and even legal in some states.

  48. Thank you for posting this. I am not married so it’s not an issue right now, but I have tried to explain to people that it would be a bad idea for me to be a mother and they don’t get it that a mental health issue would prevent it. This post will be great for me to share if it comes up again.

  49. The decision to not have children has been very hard for my husband and I. We want children… we want many children. We are also responsible enough to know that my body was not made for that. Because I am a rapid cycler I have never responded to new medication quickly. If I don’t get 6 hours of sleep 3 nights in a row my mind shatters. I cannot know how pregnancy or time can affect me, nor how I would take it out on a child, and I have personally chose not to put my unborn children in a situation with that risk. I do not judge anyone for making a different decision. Despite a large family and an amazing support group, it is not for us.

    I wanted to post because some of the comments were extremely offensive to me. Your post resulted in me feeling like my emotions are normal. You let me know that there are many couples who struggle with this decision. You let me know that my decisions are healthy and mature.

    EVERY time my husband and I feel yearning on our heart for children, we re-read your post and are reminded that we are doing exactly what is right for us. THANK YOU.

    Don’t forget that while your comments may stir the pot, you are also helping others (me) take ownership of my disorder and in the process saving lives.

  50. I can relate completely. I do not have bipolar but have PTSD, depression and anxiety. I used to have it so bad that I was hospitalized many many times in my 20s and early 30s. I am 40 now and am doing much much better and am not very symptomatic but I know that I still have a disability. I love kids and want nothing more than to be a great mom to someone. However, I know in my heart (and have seen it with my friends who got NEWLY acquired mental illness only after having had kids) that I cannot do the job and it would only set me back to the scared, non-functioning shell of a person that I once was. I now have a stable life, a great husband and pretty good health. I’m just not a gambler.

    P.S. If you look online and google “I regret being a mother/parent” or anything like that you will simply not believe the amount of women who anonymously admit that their lives are ruined (in every way…..bodies, marriages, sanity, self esteem, friendships, everything) and they were led into having children by society. And most never had any mental illness whatsoever beforehand. Scary.

  51. While my reasons for being childless are different, this post still resonates with me. I went through years of infertility treatment and at the same time began experiecing fibromyalgia. I discontinued treatment as my health crashed. I came to a point of acceptance over my infertility. Then last summer i was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. The meds i take barely control the pain, but are necessary. At first my rheumy suggested 4 months of treatment and then 2 months off to try to concieve. Drs will not even write a acript for these meds w/o the patient agreeing to some form of birth control. They will cause defects to an unborn child. I decided to stay on the meds all the time because i already put that issue in the past. Last month i went w/o my injections for only 20 days due to a prob w/the new insurance co. After only 3 days, the pain became so severe that i decided, “nope, never going off the juice again, not even to try to get pregnant.” I have been back on the meds for 4 weeks now, but still experiencing a flare. For me, i would say the most difficult part of this experience has been knowing that i actually dont even get to make this choice. My control has been torn from me by this disease.

  52. YES There are Good Responsible Bipolar Mothers out there! I have been a parent for 25 yrs total 5 children and all my child are Happy. I have always been told I am a very good mother and this being said to me without anyone knowing that I had this issue. Not everyone who has bipolar is the same and just because the label is the same doesn’t mean the condition is the same. I don’t party, I don’t drink, I don’t do drugs. My children have always been my first priority and their needs and wants have always been put before my own. I am single sole supporting working parent. I maintain my home to provide a safe clean healthy enviroment for my children to grow and thrive in. I always do what is in the best interest of my child and I have never had any problems doing such. Common Sense is something your lacking, your personal own condition is not the same as anyone else’s and for you stero type that all women who ever been diagnose with a bipolar disorder saying they shouldn’t have children is completely wrong. Just because you aren’t woman enough to handle the responsibily don’t make assumptions that other women can’t. Just like every child is different you can’t judge them the same, they may be all chidlren becasue of their age clasification but each one is unqiue not the same. You can’t stero type this condition because NO two people are a like in any shape or form. Not everyone can be a Mother and not everyone can be a parent it doesn’t have anything to do with being bipolar. There’s people out there who don’t have any disorder and they can’t handle being a parent!

    • Woman enough? Wow, you’re sick! She’s only talking about her own experience not commenting on other women with Bipolar who choose to have kids. You’ve taken it too personally and said something totally disgusting and misogynistic. You sound very unstable and abusive, tbh. I don’t think she’s lacking common sense, she knows what’s best for her. Grow up!

      • I raised two beautiful girls with the help of my family members..I have been hospitalized a number of times although it has been over 15 years now..My youngest daughter is not bi polar but is prone to depression, she must keep in check…Oddly enough my older daughter can have bad issues with anger….this is very hard on me, because it can cause a relapse for me, if we are together to much…I am very glad I have my children and now a grandson, but I will not lie and say it has not been an easy road for us…

      • I agree. Seems the post was misread as being told what people should or shouldnt do, as opposed to the authors intentions. Which are her feelings in her situation and flat out Facts! Ibelieve that comment is very hurtful. Also judges womens decisions as being wrong or right. Which i honestly believe was Not the reason for this original blog post. I stand by my decision and i am woman enough to know im doing what is right for myself, and my future, i know having kids is not an option for me. That doesnt make me any less of a human being, let alone any less of a womam.

    • Hahahhahhaha……well sorry lady but you just made your case against yourself! Your bitterness, anger and instability shines through your post as bright as the light of day!

      Good try though.

      “Woman enough” huh? lololol

      This person who posted this original post is not only being “WOMAN ENOUGH” but extremely conscious and SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE!!!!!

      So speaking of woman enough and socially responsible…..where abouts are your babies’ daddies? Hmmm….I wonder.

  53. I do believe that depending on the severity of the mental illness, women with such conditions should not have children. Having children is a huge responsibility. They need structure, guidance and support. Women who decide to have kids knowing full well that they are mentally-I’ll and can’t handle then are very selfish. Yes. There is always family to help. But why should aunts, grandparents, uncles, even siblings be burdened with raising kids whom they didn’t create? I do admire women for making the decision of not having children. If you can’t raise them properly,why have them? Yes, they can be placed for adaption. But what if they inherited the condition and will develop it later on. I do believe that having a baby is a woman’s decision. There is nothing scarier than to give birth to a child and not offering them a proper upbringing. It is the situation with my son’s biological mother. She was diagnosed with bipolar disorders, had a child being unmarried and could not raise the child. She abandoned him when he was 2 years old, but decided that she was going to stick around so that the boy would not forget about her. She does not do anything for this child other than spoiling him excessively and making sure that the boy sees her as the best mommy in the world. My husband and I do all the hard work. Women out there, do not have kids if you know you can’t raise them due to your condition. It is unfair to everyone. If you decide to give them for adaption, make the decision and stay away from their lives. Don’t mess their lives just because you are selfish. There is so much hard work to raise a child. Let alone one who is confused by other e loo elements.

  54. I can totally relate to you except I do already have children and the poor things have to deal with a Mommy who suffers from severe depression and is bipolar everyday. I hate it for them and if I could change it and make it better I would. I’ve tried every drug, every hospital, every therapist, exercise, no caffeine, no alcohol, changed to lower hormone birth control, you name it and I’m just trapped in this obsessive, detached mind exactly like how you described it above. I spend most of my time trying to figure out how to make myself feel and think “normal.” I just would like to wake up one day in my whole life and not feel like I have to force myself out of bed to take care of my kids and actually be able to function as if I were somewhat similar to the rest of the human race. I can’t stand how so much of the world doesn’t understand bipolar still and I have been called crazy too many times in my life to even count. Being bipolar is so physically, mentally, and emotionally draining and it is comforting to know I am not the only one out there.

  55. I couldn’t have said it better myself. I feel the exact same way. Not too much more to say! Just that you are not the only person who has made this choice. I am glad I’m not the only one!

  56. Natasha,
    I was so saddened to read that you believe you cannot be a mother. After all of your writing accomplishments, and so much dedication to being an advocate for Bipolar, I’ll bet you would have that same drive and determination in your love for a child. I have had three–all on lithium, the safest drug for pregnancy–and it wasn’t easy. But nothing has brought me more joy than loving my husband and my boys. I just wrote a blog about it: http://redvinespirituality.com/bipolar-mama-hold-on-to-your-deepest-dream/. Love has an amazing, transformational effect. Love makes you bigger and better than you ever thought you could be. I hope you’ll think twice about writing this miracle–and yourself–off just yet. God bless you.

    Sincerely,
    Taylor Arthur

  57. YES, u can have a baby with bipolar, I was 39 when I had Oliver. I was the subject of award winning bbc2 newsnight post partum psychosis, look it up under my name on google. It gives u all the moment by moment facts of the scary stuff and the good stuff. Oliver is now nearly 3 and we are on our own. We manage? I’m not saying it’s easy but it’s worth it.
    Shelley Blanchard x

  58. As someone with experience with adoptees, I find your attitude toward adoption disturbing and misinformed.

    You seem to imply that if a mentally ill person determines it irresponsible to get pregnant and have children, adoption can be a good option.

    I gather you don’t know the process of applying for adoption. It’s every bit as stressful as a pregnancy, and much more expensive. In this process, many mentally ill people will be “screened out”. Whether that should happen is debatable. The fact is that it does happen, and to be rejected in such a way can trigger a relapse of symptoms.

    More than that, if you think it’s irresponsible to expose your children to your symptoms and make them live with that, then how do you think it will be any different for adoptees considering the depression that often accompanies the entry of an adopted child into the home?

    And if you think that the strain of raising children will be too much to handle, then adoption definitely isn’t for you. While anyone can have a special needs child, adoptees are more likely to have special needs. Fetal alcohol syndrome, reactive attachment disorder, and PTSD are all common in adoptees. Many adoptees’ birth parents suffer from mental illness themselves (makes sense that they would be more likely to place their children for adoption), putting them at increased biological risk .

    Adoptees have already experienced the loss or rejection of one set of parents, and many of them have suffered abuse and neglect, so it is often difficult for them to learn to trust their adoptive parents. They particularly need stability in their homes and in their parents.

  59. Interesting perspectives. I have bipolar 1 and every psychiatrist who has ever treated me has, without prompting from me, openly supported me having children if I choose to do so. I will say that I am one of those persons with bipolar who do extremely well on medication. I am pregnant now and it’s been difficult, but only because I tried to give it a go without meds and became psychotic. Lesson learned, I am extremely focused on keeping stress down and putting support systems in place for after the birth, particularly in order to protect my sleep.

    I’m being treated in accordance with the protocol discussed in this study (albeit with different drugs): http://www.kraambedpsychose.nl/attachments/File/Prevention_of_Postpartum_Psychosis.pdf

  60. Funny how people -with or without mental illnesses- can justify the decisions they make. Since when is “I always wanted to have children” a valid reason to have them? Since when is it a planetary priority to please ourselves by making our fantasies a reality? Since when *opinions* are fact? We may ignore the fact that our environment will probably be totally devastated by the time our children reach adulthood, but how can we ignore SCIENTIFIC FACTS? Because it IS A FACT THAT BIPOLAR AND OTHER MENTAL ILLNESSES are originated by inherited factors, aggravated by environmental factors. So, a baby born to a bipolar mother (counting that s/he has friend/family/financial support) has to face life to a emotionally-unstable mother, who depends on side effects-causing medication (like insomnia, for example.) In anybody comes here saying that they don’t have side effects, that they are not emotionally unstable, I’d say that they, then, are not bipolar, by definition. What is the NEED to complicate one’s life, and deprive a child of hers/his inalienable rights to be entirely satisfied by the adults in his life (United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, 1949, Geneva). The need is then, ego. The need to satisfy ONESELF. I’d say tape a trip to the Bahamas, adopt a dog, take up ThaiChi. I was the child of not one, but two mentally ill parents who took their own lives in my presence. Sure, ur intentions are the greatest, but the future is unknow. One favor: look at the rate of teenage suicide in the world. There is the answer. Of course, that won’t happen to your child, because it didn’t happen to you either, right?

  61. This post broke my heart. It’s sad to me that you would decide not to have children because of your condition, but that is your decision and you did a great job of outlining your reasons.

    For other mothers living with bipolar disorder though, I would have to respectfully disagree with you, Natasha. I knew since I got married that I wanted to have a family some day. I never thought that I’d be diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder at 27. We had only been married for a little over two years. I took almost two years to get well and at that point we were ready to try for a baby.

    I worked closely with my doctor and therapist, and they tried to work within my requests of staying off medication during the pregnancy and after so that I could try to breastfeed. I had to go through some very difficult learning experiences after my son’s birth and after finding out I was pregnant with my second child, but I can still say with complete conviction that if a woman is determined to have a family despite the fact that she has bipolar disorder she CAN do it.

    I have a wonderful support system, for which I am extremely grateful. And I am committed to my treatment plan so that I can manage my illness and be the best mother I can to my children.

  62. Thank you so much for posting this!

    I have Borderline Personality Disorder/ chronic dissociation/ psychosis and a physical disability. I decided as soon as I began to become unstable that I would never bring a child into my world. I was abused as a child, and while the BPD is very much under control, I am scared that becoming a mother would trigger it all off. The thought of being pregnant, having my body out of control, terrifies me. I think it would be selfish of me to have a baby, because I will never be fully stable and ‘present’. I still battle with chronic dissociation and ‘zone out’ very easily, and it would be dangerous to have a child if I was doing this all the time. I also have a physical disability that would make it physically painful to be pregnant.

    I get so so so sick of people telling me that my feelings are wrong. ‘If everyone thought like you nobody would have kids’. ‘You’ll change your mind in 5 years time’. Those comments came from a MH advocate, I was furious. We know our own limitations, we know our minds and condition, and it’s our right to not reproduce if we don’t want to. The ‘you’ll change your mind’ comment hurts, because it implies I don’t know my own mind- coming from someone who supports people with MH issues, it’s insulting. Unless I miraculously become mentally healthier, my trauma is completely erased and I am permanently ‘present’, then NO, I won’t change my mind.

    When she said (smirking) ‘If everyone was scared of passing things on, nobody would have kids’. Well, BPD has almost killed me, it has a high mortality rate. I do not want to risk passing on my suicidal depression and instability, or risk abusing my kids as I am still not fully healed from my own experiences. I get suicidal PMS, I dread to think what PPD would be like. I have attachment issues, and I am scared I wouldn’t bond with my baby.

    My mind and body would not be able to cope, and I think it takes guts to admit that. I have seen what parents with BPD do to their kids. Even though I am healing and self-aware, I will never be fully stable, my emotions/ moods are still all over the place. It wouldn’t be fair if I got ill, that my child would have to look after me, which often happens.

    I would rather spend the rest of my life regretting not having kids, than bring an innocent child into my world and damage them. Nobody ‘needs or deserves’ to have kids, but all kids deserve and need stable parents.

    I have been told many times I would make a good mother, and I love kids. But I think it would be child abuse to inflict my disorder on a child, as well as the 100% chance of passing on my painful disability.

    I don’t see this as self-loathing. I am relieved that, although I will be constantly judged, I don’t ‘have’ to have kids if I don’t want to.

    Thank you so much for making this post. It is so validating to see I am not alone in my thinking.

    It’s very upsetting to be told that you don’t know your own mind, that your reproduction choices are wrong, even if they are ‘well intentioned’- I.e from not realizing that it’s none of their business. You cannot understand another person’s reasons until you have lived their life.

    Also, I don’t see you insinuating others shouldn’t have kids, you are talking about your OWN experience. You do not have to apologise for your views! Your body, your life, your choice!

  63. I’m 26 I am not disgnosed as of yet I have an 11 week old baby boy I knew I wasn’t ready I wasn’t stable enough. I felt pressured by the relationship I was in and it has been a very rough road and I feel horrible for my little guy and I feel often that he deserve a better mother. But he is alert and very healthy and has a great father and grandma and aunts who love him and are always willing to step in when mom needs to step out. I think things will be ok once I get things under control with medication and therapy but we’re looking it as a team effort. I love him and I don’t wish I never had him I wish I had just been in a better place before I had him.

    • You are going through a hard time with a new baby, this is NORMAL for even those who don’t suffer from bi polar. New moms, of every background have mood swings and cry at times. Stay on your meds, do whatever you must do to stay healthy for your baby. You can and will do it, have faith. Stay close with your doctor and take it easy with yourself. There is never a “right time” to have a baby and I believe every child is chosen and a true gift from God.

    • I would like to explain myself if I offended anyone. I only meant for the mother’s to be that we should not hold back in life because we are bi polar, or any other conditions you were diagnosed with. Loving others will get you out of self plus just because our brains work in a certain way does not mean you will make a bad mother. I do not accept my mental illness as a way of getting out of my responsibilities or my duties as a mom. Addiction, or mental illness can all be treated, and when you love your children and believe in God all things are possible. My post was for those who want children but are scared. I am living proof that love has brought me to the place I am because of my children. Listen to your doctor but also trust your heart. There are plenty of bi polar moms that I know who are amazing parents. As I said, consult your Dr, but don’t be afraid to love.

  64. I’m in tears as i read this post, as this is the exact choice i’ve made in recent years, i’m 26, rapid cycle BP II, Anxiety and OCD. I’ve been married for a little over 2 years to a very caring, understanding and helpful man who utterly adores children and is wonderful with his much younger siblings and my little cousins. i had to tell him we cannot have children, that i cannot have children to be exact it’s hard, it’s heart breaking and soul destroying but it is decision that _had_ to be made. I’ve told him that if at any point he decides that fathering children are more important to him that us, that i will step aside.

    Sadly, like you i believe that if not for the BP i could be a wonderful mother, but as i’ve said i wouldn’t wish my illness and/or its implications on my worst enemy why wish it on an innocent child?

    i have to ask though does the choice get easier with time?

  65. I am very thankful i came upon your post. This is something i have fought off for years, wanting a child of my own. I am 31, bipolar and bpd. I have never wanted childen until now. I was diagnosed at 20 yrs old for the bipolar. On medss ever since. I have been inpatient many times.

    In my early to mid 20s i had a dr that told me in a very sincere way that… hes not going to tell me not to have kids, but he strongly recommends me to not have them. That hit me hard. From that moment on i made myself believe, not that i couldnt, but i did not WANT them. And it worked. Until now. I have been stable and making more progress in therapy then ever. Found a career and want to ho to college. And have someone in my life for the first time i want to share that with, a child.

    But, i wont. Not naturally for all the reasons you listed and more. I know its not the right thing for me to do. Not to myself or the baby. Maybe years from now, adoption would be an option. I know there is no way to stop my meds, and i need multiple to be stable. I feel…. not so alone now. Thank you

  66. I couldn’t help but agree with your piece. My doctor explained to me about the dangers of getting off my medication during my pregnancy. However, he was wrong. My happy accident began at the age of 39. My husband and I had been married for 10 years, we gave up trying ant it happened. My pregnancy was a wonderful experience, but the moment I came home from the hospital, I fell to pieces. I didn’t know what to do. She was cried constantly, it wasn’t her fault, I didn’t know that I wasn’t feeding her enough, because I wasn’t producing enough milk. I felt like a failure. One day, I screamed at her because she wouldn’t stop crying, and I shook her for a moment. I’ll never forget her face, she was shocked and cried more. I held her and apologized while crying. It was as I was another person. I was severely depressed, and got help. I began taking my medication, and became somewhat better, and started her on formula. However, I’m dual-diagnosed. I’m a recovering alcoholic and addict, and began taking Xanax because I suffed from severe panic attacks. I became addicted to them, and began drinking. Make a long story short, I fell apart, began neglecting her in so many ways and I wound up in a mental hospital. CPS was contacted too. During this time, my marriage was falling apart. No one knew of my dark secret, except for my poor daughter, she was only 3 and didn’t understand her mother turned into a monster. I sought treatment, and now I have 7 months sobriety, and my medication has helped me stabilized. Life has been so wonderful. My daughter is a very independent girl that plays soccer, takes martial arts, and is very bright. I notice that she is very sensitive, and I’m hoping she will become more confident. I’m teaching her reading and math, in a nutshell, I’m acting like a mother. I have friends that have bipolar and we help one another. I also have friends in AA. Before, I had regretted my choice, but not now. I know that she may suffer from both mental illness and addiction, but she may not. I’ll remain positive for now, and try to giude her in the right direction. I love her so much that it hurts. My family is awesome!

    • I am glad you are doing better. I will tell you that the first mistake was that you got off your medicine. I suffered for months with my first child after he was born and with my third I only stayed away from meds the first three months. I went to three different doctors and found that lamictal was safe during pregnancy and nursing. I believe people suffer from lack of knowledge and it’s your responsibility to use your brain and research. My six month old is a better baby than all my three kids and I took the risk of taking my medicine so I could be stable. It’s a shame you did not have better people helping you. It’s your responsibility now as a mom to do whatever you must do to stay healthy for them, it’s no longer about yourself.

  67. I have just stumbled across this site and LOVE it!! Thank you for sharing so much of yourself with us. On this particular topic, I have to say I agree with a lot of your points, and yet, I am a mother – and an amazing one at that! How can I say this? I simply have to look at the incredible ten year old boy I have raised to know I am doing many things right, and I couldn’t possibly love him any more!
    That said, I was only diagnosed not quite 2 years ago. There is a strong genetic disposition for Mental Illness in my family and substance addiction. I have always been the most “mentally stable” until my diagnosis a couple of years ago. Although my son has suffered minimally from my illness (I won’t say he hasn’t at all, because there are always impacts from mood changes no matter how much we try to protect those around us), I have made the same decision as you in regards to having any more children, and for mostly the same reasons. I love that I have read this, and that it really assures me I am not being selfish in my decision to not have more children – but in fact, the opposite :) I have to think of the child I already have, and an unmedicated, pregnant mother is not what he needs most!!

  68. Even though I am in my 30s, I am not yet sure what I have. The current diagnoses are PTSD, ADHD, and severe panic disorder. I am angry at my brain, which seems to fail me constantly. I was raised in an abusive home, and addiction as well as domestic abuse run in the family. I have been an addict, and I am now “in recovery” but am acting like what AA calls a “dry drunk.” Many days are painful, certainly mentally, but often, physically as well. My career is all but destroyed. I have been in and out of therapy since the age of 10. Mood stabilizers, SSRIs, tricyclics, benzos – I’ve tried them all. The only med that seemed to help was Ritalin, and I currently have no specialist physician coverage, nor prescription drug coverage thanks to our screwed-up healthcare system in the US.

    I have never wanted kids. This is a highly personal decision for me, and I am not advising others to make the same one. I would not be able to handle a pregnancy, nor would I tolerate the mood swings. I know I would have a bad case of post-partum depression, as that also runs in the family. I have no maternal instinct. And I am not stable. I will be doing fine for a while, and then the panic and fear floods my brain. I lash out, and freak out, and destroy my life again. I have done this so many times that I am beginning to think there is no point in picking up the pieces. It’s like owning a hutch full of fine china. The fine china is my “potential.” I smash the china when my brain doesn’t work, and then I sweep it up and launch into an anxiety and terror-ridden quest to find more. But over time, my emotional bank account (as well as my physical one) has started to dry up. I begin to think that there is no point in having china (a life) at all, and though I do not have the energy or an actionable desire to end it all, I have begun to feel more and more that a life spent on SSDI and with little involvement in the world is the only way out.

    People have been very rude to me about not wanting kids. It offends some that intelligent, supposedly upwardly mobile women in their 30s would not want to “gift the world with children.” I have been told I’ll change my mind, and that I don’t know what I want, including by ob-gyns, which (along with the endless strings of failed attempts at mental health treatment) make me hate doctors, or going to them, and which led me to self-medicate with heroin. I have also been told in snide, sarcastic tones that only damaged women who had bad childhoods don’t want kids, with subtle undercurrents of blame aimed at me as if I asked to be born and put in my family. People don’t understand that for someone who is mentally ill, getting out of bed is a victory on many days. There are so many basic things I cannot do right now, like my taxes, my chores, and my professional work, that to add a child into the mix is laughable for me. People should think more about their own lives and worry less about what I do with mine. They do not own my uterus and I am not required to use it so the world will have the “proper balance of middle-class white people.” (Ugh, racist anyway!)

    • I can understand your frustration at the rude comments. I am 30 now, and wow, I’m feeling the brunt of this prejudice. I had no idea it would get this bad. Not having kids in my situation has always been a ‘no brainer’ for me, and I think part of me just doesn’t want kids. I’m upset that I have to watch others who have kids being rewarded by society, while I am shunned. And I believe I’ve made a very sensible, mature decision, but I’m treated like a kid/ silly woman who doesn’t know what she wants.

      Some women have body issues, usually left over from abuse, and being pregnant can be a scary thing. Nobody can tell you what to do with your body. As you say, it’s your uterus.

      I care enough about ‘my potential child’ to not inflict my problems on them, if that makes sense?

      I think if you have experienced abuse it can leave you with a sense of no control over your life, and if someone says ‘you don’t know what you want’ that can be triggering. Even people who ‘just don’t want kids’ get triggered and upset, and it’s even worse if you have MH/ abuse issues.

      Hang in there!

  69. I’m 22yrs old and have older friends at university who have started getting married and having children. When I was younger I always wanted the white picket fence deal “at least 3 kids” I used to think.
    That was before my late teens when I had an almost fatal episode of catatonia, then several months of psychotic depression where I was wheelchair bound and unable to speak, completely non lucid etc.
    The reality of it came slowly. I have bipolar, it runs severely in my family, and cruelly I have the most extreme case.
    I couldn’t do it to a child. Especially not my child. Bring them into a world where not only will they suffer unspeakably from a mental illness (by my own genetic hand), be forever reliant on doctors and pills just to keep them passably steady but on top of all this be stigmatized by society, have to lie to friends/employers etc.
    I can’t be that parent, after having been that child.
    Would I be fit to be a parent? The short answer is no. For starters I know I couldn’t survive a pregnancy without my meds, which are the kind that are severely harmful to a baby.
    I know my brain is too fragile and too bipolar to survive without medication and have been told that, for me ‘medication is for life’.

    As I get older, society/family/friends will place a ‘natural’ expectation on my shoulders to have children. It might be seen as selfish and petty when I say I don’t want them. But I will know that not becoming a parent is an act of self sacrifice and the most unselfish thing I could possibly do.
    It breaks my heart.
    But remembering all the agony, and knowing there will certainly be much more of it.
    I know its for the best.

  70. I totally agree with you, Natasha. I have a brother with a very severe bipolar disorder, he is 52 now and it destroyed my life, my mom life, may sisters life and so on. Even the dog he had. At the age 17 I have been pregnant and I decided to abort because I knew I had to cut off any possibility of this illness for my child or even any post generation. It stops here. No more suffering in this planet coming from me. Oh, no. I have not bipolar disorder, but I see that is almost impossible to be a good parent with this terrible illness. Kids suffer a LOT, and if one of then became bipolar, then you can multiply the suffering 100 times. No. It is very very selfish to even think in a possibility to put somebody who did not asked for- to live in this world like this. Dot.

    • So what are the criteria for people to become parents then? Must they be white middle class or richer, with no history of any illness or other problems, then they must pass rigorous psychological testing too, be in a stable heterosexual relationship, and have an IQ of 110 or higher? But on top of that they should have good Christian values but should not be too extreme. The mother should be at home with the children and not work. And in character, they should be kind and loving, and not be racist, sexist, discriminatory or use swear words.

      Because otherwise, people are going to suffer. Oh, and my parents are like this, and I have bipolar.

      I write with all this sarcasm because I’m angry. I’m angry at how people with disabilities, people of different racial and cultural backgrounds, people of different social classes are discriminated against by those in the dominant culture. I’m angry because people who have a problem like to blame it on someone in a weaker position.

      People with bipolar are weaker, vulnerable, and so get blamed, shunned, and burnt as witches. It would be oh so terrible if we were to reproduce.

      Do you think that the happiness in your life is determined by other people? And if you are unhappy you can try telling me that I shouldn’t have any bipolar babies or people will suffer?

      People suffer. Nobody is without suffering, except maybe the Dalai Llama.

      • Wow, this is quite the rebuttal, but an important one.

        It is true that we live in an imperfect world and are deeply imperfect beings. Life has never had any guarantees, and even if you have the best pedigree – no guarantees that it will help you.

        The belief that only utterly healthy, middle class professionals should be able to reproduce does have a hint of eugenics in it.

        I am also surprised by the number of people who are badgered by others who believe they should procreate. Really? Maybe this has been hinted to me but have never noticed lol.

  71. Pregnancy is generally protective against depression. Not ALWAYS, but generally, statistically speaking. Postpartum depression is tightly linked to a traumatic birth experience. In fact, 9% of women get PTSD from their birth experience. This is largely an iatrogenic illness–meaning physician-caused. OB/GYNs think that you shouldn’t care about ANYTHING they do to you because “at least you have a healthy baby.” (Except when you don’t.)

    Yes, you will still have whatever health problems you came into pregnancy with. But pregnancy itself is not a risk factor for depression or psychosis independent of the birth experience and the outcome of the birth.

  72. I believe that lots of women with bipolar and other mental disorders can be fantastic mums.

    On the other hand, Natasha has valid concerns about how pregnancy hormones will affect her illness and/ or how her illness might affect her ability to provide the kind of upbringing she would prefer to offer potential children.

    I understand Natasha’s viewpoint because I’m in a similar position. I always wanted children but I suffer from a form of OCD that will probably get worse if I have one. Because of the way my illness affects me personally, I’m fairly certain that it will affect my ability to raise children in the way I would like, or to do certain task that are necessary.

    Some OCD sufferers might cope brilliantly and there are many others who struggle, but still manage to do a fantastic job of bringing up children. I’m even sure that most of the parents who suffer from similar forms of OCD to me can still make excellent parents.

    However, I’ve read enough accounts from these people to know that their OCD can become unbearable when they have children to care for.

    My depression (the two conditions tend to go hand- in- hand) often leads to slumps in energy and when I get overly tired (an occupational hazard of being a new mum), the fears and doubts get a hell of a lot worse. If I have to care for a baby when I’m in a state of exhaustion, I’ll inevitably worry that I did something wrong and these fears will become obsessive.

    I think some people assume that the joy of becoming a mum will somehow miraculously cure me of a condition/ manifestation of the condition that I’ve had for most of my life. Sadly, I’ve read too many accounts from people for whom this hasn’t been the case. Conversely, the OCD has become worse or changed into a different form, which makes caring for a child even more difficult than it would have been with the original type of OCD (and this is a fairly common occurrence) If I take the risk and my fears are realised, it’s too late to turn back the clock.

    My friend, who has a different form of mental illness seemed to assume that because she has children, I can and should do the same However, even though her illness can be more severe at times than mine, she has other times when she seems less affected by her illness (basically, her illness is usually more polarised and episodic, while mine is more chronic).

    Additionally, our illnesses affect us differently and we are able to cope with different things in different ways. Certain things trouble her that I have little/ no difficulty coping with and I’m bothered by other things that couldn’t even cross her mind to worry her.

    Unfortunately, despite the fact that she is brilliant mum, who loves her kids dearly, her illness does sometimes affect her ability to care for them (you can’t look after kids when you’re in hospital etc). Additionally, despite her best efforts, the kids know when there’s something wrong and can be distressed by when she has a bad episode. This isn’t her fault and it doesn’t change the fact that she’s a good mum, but it is a fact of their family’s life.

    @ Simone
    Was your comment directed at Natasha or ‘HALO’? If it was directed at ‘HALO’, I think his comment was out of order. Having a mental condition might make raising kids even harder, but there are plenty of people with bipolar etc who make excellent parents and there are plenty of parents without a mental illness who do a terrible job (and, of course, vice versa). We’re all different and even the same mental illness can affect different people in different ways.

    If, however, it was directed at Natasha, she never criticised anyone with bipolar etc for having kids or implied that they weren’t good parents; she just expressed concerns that the way she *personally* was affected by her illness might make it difficult for her to raise children in the way she would like.

  73. I couldn’t disagree with you more. I am an excellent mother, better than most normal ones out there. Love for my children causes me to never miss a dose of meds or Dr. Appointment. Maybe kids aren’t for you but don’t knock all mothers who have mental illness.

  74. My two cents for what it’s worth:
    My mother and I both have depression. It was difficult growing up that way. The worst part was watching her attempt suicide when I was 17. However, we did make it through. I have a son now and it hurts like hell having to sometimes tell him that I’m too sick to do even basic things for him. If I didn’t have my parents and my husband to help, I don’t know what we would do. I had considered never having children, ( I was so careful, I didn’t get pregnant until I was 26, even with my erratic and self destructive behavior) but I couldn’t choose to abort my son once I found out I was pregnant with him. I just couldn’t go through with it. I can understand how never having children would be a very good decision for anyone going through mental illness. Then on the other hand… sometimes the only thing that can brighten my mood is my son. Also, he’s THE reason to keep living. THE reason for me to continue treatment, hell, he was the reason I started treatment at all. Before I just smoked a bunch of pot and didn’t really care if I destroyed myself. So, while not having children is probably the best option, it can be survived, at least. I don’t like the situation I’ve put my son in just by giving his life a chance and I can only hope that he will grow stronger for it. The funny thing is: most people who know me say I’m a fantastic mother and that my son is healthy, super smart and happy! Maybe he wont have to live with this disease, but I know he’ll at least have an understanding mother who knows what it’s like to be broken, like I did.

  75. I cried through the entire story. I didn’t know I had BP disorder until 3 mos ago, when I was 45 yrs old. I have 2 daughters and I have tried to be hte best mother I could possibly be btu it has nearly killed me. Whatever I did have, I gave to them. There was simply nothing left for me. I haven’t had a job in 10 yrs. I get my hair cut and colored maybe twice a year. I don’t go out, pursue friendships (even though I make friends easily), pursue hobbies. I don’t even read anymore. I haven’t taken care of myself at all since I had them and now I don’t even know how. I don’t regret having them for one minute but reading your exceptionally poingnant words makes me think or the trade-off I never knew I was making. There is just not enough sanity to take care of them AND me. I happily gave everything I had to them. But what kind of mother does that leave them with? It is not at all fair to them.

    • Hi Erin,

      You’re not alone in your struggles. Many people have children before they know they have bipolar disorder and it’s just one of life’s little “surprises.”

      But one thing I would say is that you should do some work to take care of yourself because if you do this, you will do better at maintaining you wellness and have more to give to your children. After all, if all they see is a mother who constantly denies herself everything, what kind of message does that send? (For the record, my mother did that and the message wasn’t good.)

      Try to find small ways to support yourself. Try to eat well. Try to sleep well. Find a support group where you can talk about your struggles. Get therapy. Take five minutes a day to sit and relax. Do what’s right for you, but make _you_ a priority too. It can help everyone in the situation.

      – Natasha Tracy

  76. I do also think that I shouldn’t have kid because I don’t want my kid have mental illness even it’s 50% chances

  77. I am Bipolar and I had a child at 35, without understanding the nature of my illness. I was unmedicated and untreated until I was 38. My father also has Bipolar but was never diagnosed, as it was not the custom to consider “mental illness” in depression-era north carolina apparently. He went into an orphanage as a child and I believe this stress affected him as well our whole family. It changes a person.

    I had post-partum depression for a number of months but not severe. My child is now 13 and does not exhibit any of the manic and moody symptoms I had. At 13 I was already out of control, sick without knowing it. My moodiness and behavioral problems were evident starting at 8 years old. My child’s father is not bipolar. I feel lucky as my child is very healthy. He has had some headache problems including his first migraine (pressure in right eye). I have silent migraines in addition to Bipolar. I hope his migraine problem does not become significant later. But I know how to help him if either condition manifests. When I was coming up mental illness (unless you were completely dysfunctional) wasn’t discussed and minor mental illness was probably just tolerated. Not sure.

    As I got older the neurologic symptoms became debilitating and I am having trouble now caring for my son. I lost my work and access to healthcare due to the neurologic symptoms. I am in bed a lot during the day. Nevertheless, I don’t regret having him. I can’t imagine life without him. I was never good at relationships due to all the turmoil these types of conditions tend to produce. It seemed inevitable I would have my son on my own eventually.

    I understand why you would make this decision with the info you possess. But at the same time we never know what life will hand us. For each thing we think we can control, there are a hundred things we can’t. Managing the symptoms and having healthcare insurance is important for this condition, perhaps as important as genetics.

  78. I am Bipolar Type Two with psychosis. I have two children in my early twenties. At the time, I was not officially diagnosed. I knew that I had some issues with depression, and that I had to take medication to remain stable, but I was not able to identify mania in myself. Consequently, was unable to explain it to my doctor, who in turn was not able to diagnose me properly. When I found out I was pregnant the first time, my now-husband and I decided to marry. I took medication throughout the pregnancy, and my son was born a picture of health. Amazingly, I had no post-partum depression issues. In fact, focusing my attention on someone other than myself seemed to help things. I didn’t even try breast feeding him, as I knew that with the medication, his health could be negatively impacted. I was an amazing first time mother. My little girl, born three years later, was not so lucky. I was miserable for my entire pregnancy. She was born with two holes in her heart – I suspect due to my medication – and was unable to breathe on her own. She spent some time in NICU, during which I experienced extreme feelings of guilt that I had caused her condition. I couldn’t visit her bed without crying, my tears falling all over her little body. The doctor told me to breastfeed her despite my medications, because the breastmilk would help her thrive under her condition. After bringing her home, I quickly realized that my medications were sedating her and switched to formula. I am still surprised that I was told to breastfeed as it was obviously not in her best interest. She is a fiercely dependent little girl, and was so even as an infant, and I felt that we did not bond as well as my son and I did. She is two and a half years old now, and one of the holes in her heart still has not closed. I started suffering from extreme mania and depression during the first year of her life. I was hospitalized three times before she was even two years old, once for ECT treatments, and finally properly diagnosed. I had worked through both pregnancies, and returned to work after both as well. My hospitalizations finally resulted in the loss of my job. It may sound naive, but I truly did not realize how sick I was. Would I have chosen not to have them if I knew? I don’t know, and it’s too late to say. They are here, and I wouldn’t trade them for the world. I am now a stay at home mom to them, and I function well because I have to, for them. They mean more to me than anything. I keep up with the housework, and my kids are always fed, bathed, in clean clothes, and well cared for. There are days when it is hard as anything to keep up with it all, but it has to be done, whether I am up or down. We do fun things, too. We play together, go to the library, swim together, go to the park. I am scared of what will happen in the future. I don’t want them to suffer like I do and pray that bipolar will not affect them. But for now, I just continue on, raising them with a whole lot of love.

  79. i literaly cried when i read this. i am 31 soon 32 and newly wed. having bipolar is an very unfair and difficult condition but i desperately want a baby. after my marriage i was fully ready for trying but than suddenly a huge mixed episode which i still am going trough hit me on last 2 days of my honeymoon :(((….i felt so betrayed by my own self.everything was right, everything was good but my brain doesnt let me live a normal decent life unfortunately…for this i hate myself most..because there is no visible barriers, no visible issues..money check, bodiliy health check, timing check,…..but unfortunately there is this invisible barrier monster called bipolar…its tratment and medications…and its horrible horrible phases…for years i craved for a baby but timing wasnt right and now everything is right but i am not ….what bipolar mostly did was to destroy my self love to myself…i cant forgive myself, altough i now it is not my fault. i painfully recall all those times-yars swept away with painful depressive, anxious, irritaded, suicidal feelings..All those repetative thoughts that ruined my capacity to enjoy life…i fell i don’t deserve this body and this opportunties…my soul is rotten…and still I DARE DESPERATLY TO WANT A CHILD….which the more i can’t have, the more i want…..

    • Hi Volif,

      I’m sorry you’re in that spot. I know how difficult it is. I recently told someone that I feel my body is completely out of control as you never know when a mood or a side effect or something is going to completely mess it up. So believe me, I know how you feel. And it _does_ feel like your body has betrayed you – but it hasn’t. Actually your body is just doing the best it can at dealing with an impossible illness. Actually your body is amazing. It is doing an amazing job and an impossible task. Try to appreciate it for all that it is and not hate it for what it is not.

      And please, please don’t feel like there’s something wrong with you. There’s _nothing_ wrong with you. Many women can’t have children for many reasons and there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with any of them. They are wonderful women just like everyone else – as are you. It is not a statement about your womanhood or your personhood.

      You may never have kids. That is a reality. Having kids is just something that can destroy a person with bipolar disorder – or it might not. Of course, no one knows. But there are other options, of course. If you have experienced long-term wellness (except right now) without the complication of pregnancy then you might make a great adoptive parent! Personally, I consider people who adopt to be heroes. People who adopt are creating a family for someone who would otherwise grow up without one. It’s an amazing gift to give.

      I’m sorry I made you cry, but realize you are not alone in your battle. There are many outcomes, and you will find the one that works for you.

      – Natasha Tracy

      • What a glib, flip thing to suggest that this woman with a mental illness (and it seems as if, in your view, a mental illness renders one unfit to breed and I agree it should give one pause but I don’t take such a hard line about it as you) simply adopt!
        Do you HONESTLY think that dog would hunt because I sure don’t. One of the things that private adoption agencies as well as government social services that oversee the placement and adoption of children screen for; right along with criminal records or financial instability is a current or past mental illness.
        I really hope that these people take the advice of a madwoman with a grain of salt. If you are so dead-set against crazy ladies having babies, I strongly suggest you get your own tubes tied and keep your nose out of everyone else’s uterus. Look at all the people you’ve upset! You aren’t saying anything that these people haven’t already heard before. Do you even care? Perhaps you’re suffering from grandiose thoughts if you think that you are helping more than hurting.
        I know for my part, that you have upset me greatly (don’t bother apologizing because I wouldn’t believe it to be sincere anyway) because I have been denigrated for mental issues that I didn’t ask for my entire life and have come to view most normal things that normal people do, eg: marriage, carreer, family to be beyond my reach.
        Thanks a bunch, crazy pants!

    • Wow, your story really hit me hard. I was diagnosed Bipolar at 22, after experimenting with many subtances (mushrooms, LSD, ecstacy, pot, etc…).I have a history of the disease, plus anxiety, schizophrenia, and who knows what else in my family and I knew better than to take drugs. I did it anyway because I was naive and wanted to please my then boyfriend. I went totally from severely depressed to extremely manic over a few weeks and ultimately ended up in jail, then hospitalized. The Dr. told me the disease would have affected me in my forties, regardless of my drug usage. I’m sure I only made it worse for myself. I was medicated and did pretty well, got a decent job and worked for 7 years or so. The last year of work became extremely difficult as I was not taking Depakote any longer, and pretty sure I stopped Wellbutrin as well. I wanted to have a child with my husband as we were married for about 2 years, together for 5. It just never happened for us. He was really scared and afraid we would not be able to support one financially, plus our intimacy level continued to decrease with his depression and general lack of interest. I had started a new job and everything was great, then I began to become extremely depressed for no reason at all. A month later, I was bouncing off the walls. I knew what what happening, and I tried to get the help and meds I needed but it was too late. I had a full on manic episode with psychosis and hallucinations and my friend found me wandering the streets at 2am one morning. Needless to say, I was hospitalized a second time and it took way longer for me to recover this time. My husband and I have separated and I really blame myself for the major reasons why. I have worked several jobs, and had to quit one because my meds would not allow me to wake up and function enough for work. The insomnia also got the best of me. I desperately want a child, but I don’t know if I could be a decent mother with my history. I also do not want to expose them to the mental illness in my family that is almost certain to affect them at some point. It rips my heart to see young children happily with their families, knowing that I will never have that for myself. At this point, it may be for the best since I am separated and the guy I’m seeing does not want children at all. I just don’t know anymore.

  80. I am writing from the opposite side about whether to adopt. I was adopted when I was a baby and I was diagnosed as bipolar ii when I was about eight. So you see, you never know what you are going to get. My adoptive parents who are not mentally ill were, however, alchoholics and somethimes I think that they drank more because they couldn’t deal with me. I saw what this illness did to my family and wonder if they ever wanted to give me back. By the time I was a young adult I had decided that I was never going to bring a baby into this dammaged world of mine.
    During my 30’s it was difficult because all of my friends were getting married and having “normal” relationships. By my mid 30’s all of my friends had the 2.5 kids, the house with the white picket fence, the whole nine yards. Yet I still knew that I didn’t want children. By my late 30’s people started to pressure me about not having children and not being married like I was defective or something. I am now 43 and everyone has left me alone. I am now at a point in my llfe where people ask me if I have children and when I say “no” you can see that they are too uncomrfortable to ask.
    Hang in there Natasha, you only have a few more years to go before people will stop pressuring you.

    • Hi Patricia,

      Absolutely – you never know what you’re going to get; I completely agree with you. I just suspect that if I _did_ have a child I _would_ know what I’d get and it wouldn’t be so great. (And by that I mean not so great for them.)

      I guess I never thought of people looking at me like I’m broken for not having kids. I always just considered it a choice. However, like you said, I’m now at that stage in life where everyone _is_ having kids now so maybe people will start to look at me funny, I don’t know. For me, I’m so fiercely independent that I think people expect me to make different life choices than most. I weird. And I don’t mean mentally ill, I just mean weird.

      – Natasha Tracy

  81. From my experience & that of the maternal family I will honestly recommend having your tubes tied & overlies irradiated. My ex-wife’s selfishness cannot justify the direct harm she has inflicted on our 2 kids. Do the world a favor: live alone & hoard some cats.

    • Hi HALO,

      That’s a harsh thing to say and not something I would say to another human being – ever. It’s important to realize that everyone with the illness is different and in different situations and experiences the illness differently and it’s absolutely not fair to tar and feather them because of someone else being a bad mother.

      I have all these concerns about having kids, naturally, and I wouldn’t want to inflict pain on any child, but that’s different than telling people to “irradiate their ovaries.”

      – Natasha Tracy

    • Just because YOU alone made the descion to have children with someone obviously unfit to have kids, doesn’t mean we all are going to be bad mothers. That sounds like your fault. I’m bipolar and I am wonderful to my children. They have NO idea mommy has bipolar nor will they until they are old enough to understand. My husband is also very helpful in raising them. Maybe you should make better choices in life and stop attacking innocent people for YOUR mistakes.

    • I know this comment is old, I know it’s thoughtless, but I had to reply. I can’t believe some people on here took this comment seriously. The incredible thing about it is the sheer hypocrisy of judging like this. For all we know, “had a life once” had some serious issues in the first place. He went ahead and married someone with an illness, blames his life’s problems on them, and comes on here and slams a blogger in their free time. How do we know that this co-dependent, (obvious from the comment) completely rude individual is NOT mentally ill?

      Natasha Tracy went to the doctor, got her meds and is open about her illness. For all we know, “had a life once” was taken to a therapist and denied their illness and threw away the meds. For all we know, they are mentally ill and think they are completely normal and never even considered therapy.

      Natasha is doing the best she can with the hand she was dealt. So many people out there don’t admit they have problems. Some people are 300 lbs overweight and have a family in spite of urgent health problems. Some people have kids with convicts or violent people. You come on here and slam Natasha because she’ll actually listen to your drivel, and they won’t.

      Take the anger out on your ex, and grow a brain the way Natasha has. Then you might understand yourself well enough not to cast stones.

  82. That is a tough decision.
    I do not have bipolar and neither does my daughter’s father. Yet, somehow she ended up with it. So, all I am saying is that you cannot expect that for sure your kid would have it. Surprises come both ways. At age 6 my daughter was diagnosed with childhood bipolar…. It has not been easy.
    And…i thought Lamictal was “OK” to take during pregnancy or at least not as worrisome as others.

    I only have one child. We decided that we could not handle a second at the time. We are now going to adopt an older child that probably will have depression, anxiety, or bipolar because most people who lose their kids to the state have mental illness/addiction issues.

    so, there ya go. you just never know…

    angi
    PS yes we have checked and rechecked with doctors about my husband and I and not having bipolar.

    • Hi Angelina,

      Oh, I agree with you completely – you never know. No one is guaranteed a healthy child.

      Lamotrigine isn’t as bad as some, but it’s worse than others. Unfortunately, when it comes to the drug’s effects on fetuses we’re really just guessing based on minimal testing. Some drugs have shown specific effects like birth defects while others just don’t have any human study done on them.

      If you do decide to adopt a child with mental illness just know that you’re my hero. Very few people would want to be in that position – let alone step into it knowingly. That’s an amazing gift to be giving someone who really needs it.

      – Natasha Tracy

  83. It has been interesting to read through the many comments that have been left by your readers. There are so many different experiences and opinions. I, as probably the rest of your readers, have a very strong personal opinion. I am forty eight years old and have five amazing children, and one perfect grandson. I was diagnosed twelve years ago. I, too, have been medication resistant and wasn’t able to get stabilized for eight long years. I have been hopsitalized twice and endured ECT after nothing else seemed to work. I have been able to live a relatively normal life for four years because we found the right medications and doses, and because we have learned how to maintain my stabilty by making the life adaptions that need to be in place in order to keep me as healthy as possible. My oldest is twenty six and my youngest is fourteen. I can honestly say that not once have I regretted being a mother, even as much as I hate what this has done to our lives. When I am in the bipolar mode of thinking I get overwhelmed with guilt and self hatred, which goes without saying, but when I am in my healthy and truth based thinking, I am thankful beyond words for the sacrifices I have made being a wife and a mother, and for the service that has been given to me by my husband and children. I have witnessed what my illness has done for my kids. We have been through hell on almost every level, but I have seen that each one of them have learned empathy and compassion for not only myself, but for other people in general. This has taken place, not in spite of the illness, but because of it. I believe that every difficult and trying experience we go through in life can be for our good in some way, even if it is just to have the capacity to have a true understanding for other’s who have the illness. I call our ability to bless the lives of others, passing on the compassion. We all know that it is almost impossible to understand the awful depths of despair that come with mental illness, and talking with others who live with the illness is a critical component of hanging on and trying to maintain hope. Each one of my kids have anxiety, depression, or bipolar to differing degrees. My daughter, who has gifted us with our grandson, is my one child who has been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. I can’t imagine life without this special little treasure she has blessed us with, and unlike me, she made the decision to have children after being diagnosed. I know that she has not regretted making this decision even at the risk of her children being affected by the genetic factors. I know that there is a large genetic vulnerability in my extended family, but that would not have changed my decision to have children. I hope that my children understand that the blessings far outweigh the difficulties and risks that come to any person who is making the decision to have their own children. We are who we are today because of the experiences we have lived and endured together. I know that each one of us who suffer with mental illness have to decide the road that we need to personally take. My road has taken me on a difficult journey but I can’t say for certain that I would choose another path if it would have made me a different person than I am today. Of course, I am in a heathy state of mind at the moment. Give me five minutes and you may have heard a completey different opinion. : )

    • Hi Dina,

      I appreciate your perspective and it’s heartening to know you wouldn’t change your sacrifices to be a mother. I like to think that’s how it should be. And if you’ve found a way to look at mental illness in your family as having had a positive effect then that’s good for you too.

      I, however, have not had that experience. The mental illness in my family has destroyed people. “Learning compassion” is really the farthest thing from reality. What ends up happening is people “learning addiction” as a way of dealing with their mental health issues.

      Each family is different I can only say that for mine, I would give anything to have erased mental illness from it.

      – Natasha Tracy

  84. Good article Natasha. This topic should be talked about as it is so very real and important.

    From experience, I have bipolar disorder and possibly further undiagnosed issues and I have three children. Yes not just one but three. During pregnancy and after I had to be hospitalized for depression and phychosis. I did not have postpartum depression as that entails not wanting anything to do with your baby. I loved being close to my children but unfortunently my illness took over and I could not function.

    I was diagnosed as a teen and after I was 18 I pretty much forgot I had anything wrong with me. I lived in denial and continued to deal with bipolar/phychosis for years on my own, thinking it was just a character flaw that could be fixed rather then an illness that needed treatment.

    It is hard. And I agree with Natasha that if you have a serious mental illness it is best for your wellbeing not to have children. I feel bad for having children; I do…I never intended to ruin there lives. It’s a rather deep subject but the main reason I had children was to please my ex-husband and my current and I can say I was not thinking clearly at the time. Like I said, too long of a story; but it happened and I must go on.

    I love my children, I’ve never hit them, I’ve never verbally said anything bad to them or hurtful, I am very loving towards them. However, sometimes like any bipolar person knows I can be emotionally unavailable from time to time. Or I will cry infront of them. Or sometimes I have to remove myself from home to get my mind together so they don’t see me go off the deep end.

    Like it or not, as a bipolar parent you will not be there for your children 100% of the time. Sometimes you can’t even be there for yourself. The only saving grace for me is a husband that can and does pick up the slack when I am not well. However, as Natasha has said you can’t count on that because of divorce. I have already discussed with my husband that if we were ever to break up he would have the children, he and I know I could not handle it by myself. It’s sad, but it is what it is.

    • Hi Samantha,

      Thank-you for your honest feedback. It must be hard to say some of what you did and I really appreciate you saying it because I know others have read it and felt the same way but just couldn’t get the words out, so thank-you. You have helped people realize they are not alone.

      Kudos to you for thinking of your kids first and realizing that there are problems due to your mental illness. It’s really hard for people to admit that. And thank goodness you have a husband who steps with you.

      – Natasha Tracy

  85. I can relate so much to this story. And no doctor convinced me not to have any it was more of the opposite. Trust me Bipolar Disorder is a real illness and you do NEED meds to treat it. I made my choice years ago not to have kids. I even had a hysterectomy at age 33 because I was that certain. I had suffered so long with the illness and I did not want my child to live through the extreme mood swings that I still have to this day. I also did not want the meds I took to damage the child. There is a lot of proof that they do hurt the child. I also did not want to pass the gene on to them. I knew I could not quit talkng my meds either though many doctors said it was safe. My quality of life was even better after my surgery because my cycle would make my disorder worse. As I about to reach 40 I have no regrets and I know I made the right choice. While it is a personal one to make I know it was the right thing for me.

    • Hi Elaine,

      I think it’s brave to make that decision and comforting to know that you have no regrets. Your reasons sound quite reasonable and it sounds like you thought it out well ahead of time.

      Thanks for sharing.

      – Natasha Tracy

  86. Really? You would decide not to have children just because some shrink invented a disease and convinced you that you had it? Wow, I don’t even know what to say. That is truly one of the saddest things I have ever read in my life. Seriously, I’m not even trying to make fun here, because this is truly tragic.
    Please don’t listen to what these devils tell you. The more they tell you that you are abnormal, and the more you believe it, the more it will seem to be true. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
    You are not weak unless you allow yourself to be. You do not need psychoactive drugs to live your life or to do the things normal people do, like have kids and raise families.
    You write that you want to have a child, and feel you would be a good mother, but “the disease won’t allow it”.
    You need to stop believing what your shrink tells you. You are not weak, you do not need dope for your survival, and you do not need shrinks to tell you what to put into your own body, or what to produce from your own body. If you choose to ignore the lies, just this one time, I guarantee your life will be forever enriched.

    • Six years ago John, my symptoms started, and I refused to believe I had an illness. I thought that since mental illness was a type of paradigm, a way of looking at things, that I would simply look at things another way. I tried EVERYTHING else. You name it, I tried it. But the symptoms got worse.

      I lost my career, my professional respect, everything I had worked for.
      I lost my friendships, and I went out with guys I shouldn’t have. I lost my self-respect.
      I hurt my family, who I cared about very much, over and over.
      I binge ate, and put on 50kg. I lost my physical self and all the activities that I enjoyed.
      I stopped praying, lost my faith, and felt that a devil had possessed me
      I lay still and listened to the clock tick. I lost my will to live.

      Finally, three years later, and nothing left to lose, I took a pill from the doctor. I was psychotic at the time, and convinced that he had poisoned me, so I actually admitted myself to hospital in order to get cleansed of the poison.

      Psychosis, dear John, is the worst pain imaginable.

      I nearly beat up the nurse when she tried to give me a valium.

      With hospital treatment for mental illness, and good follow-up treatment, I got back most of what I had lost and met the man of my dreams.

      Of course when I felt better I stopped taking the medication. It wasn’t long before I was back in hospital again.

      With my husband’s support, I am doing well again. But I have an illness, and I need to manage it.

      Please stop spreading poisonous propoganda. I and my family owe my life to those ‘evil devils’, who in my ‘intelligence’ I avoided for so long.

      Having said that I agree that people with bipolar disorder should have children, so long as things are managed optimally.

      • Oh and seriously? Someone INVENTED bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses? Oh you are serious. I see. Let me explain.

        It starts with certain behaviours and self-resported experiences, which are problematic and interfere with function. These things were going on well before psychiatry began.

        Doctors and scientists OBSERVE these OBJECTIVELY. They analyse what they see and classify accordingly. They refine these classifications as they learn more. Diagnosis means matching what can be observed with known patterns. Diagnosis is useful because we know that certain patterns of behaviour respond to certain treatments. Psychiatric methods are improving all the time, just like other branches of medicine, just as other science s are.

        Some people still believe that the world is flat, even though it has been conclusively proven to be a sphere. Some people like to hang on to their beliefs, which is fine if it makes them feel better. Live and let live I say. I’ve found it’s best to tolerate these people best I can, despite the harm they are doing to other people, simply because you can’t change them.

        So here’s a big smile to you John :) :)

        And with all my heart I hope you never understand the real truth about mental illness, that it never touches your life. But if one of your loved ones is ill, please take them to the doctor. And give them the support of believing in THEM, as a person, as entirely seperate from the behaviour that they cannot control alone.

        Medicine is great but it doesn’t work by itself; mental illness has a huge social component to it. And a big part of that is acceptance.

  87. I certainly understand that the decision to have children or not is a hard decision to make, and totally private. I AM a mom, of 5, and I am bipolar. Did I really know that I could pass this on to my kids before I had them? No actually I didn’t, I had my first child at 20 and I was definitely not ready to be a mom at that age. I have recently learned I passed this onto my oldest daughter, and I feel absolutely horrible about it. I honestly think if I had known I would not have had children, but I definitely don’t regret having my children at all. Despite my illness I have been a good mom, and they are actually what has helped keep my going despite my illness. They kept me “normal” for the longest time, or at least as “normal” as I could be. I knew they were counting on ME and only ME for everthing so I kept pushing forward ignoring my illness and taking absolutely wonderful care of them. Now that they are older and I’ve sought treatment I think back and there are definitely some things I wish I could have done differently when caring for them, but nothing major or life threatening. If I had sought help sooner maybe I would have been more patient, and level-headed when I needed to be. But we can’t change the past only learn from it. They only I DO regret is passing this on, just as it was passed on to me. Live and learn? I guess that’s all I can do at this point.

    Binky

    • Hi Binky,

      Thanks for your comment. I’d say you’re definitely not alone in your situation.

      “They only I DO regret is passing this on, just as it was passed on to me. Live and learn? I guess that’s all I can do at this point.”

      Yup, that’s all any of us can do. And you can help your child live with this disease successfully – which as we all know, is possible. And maybe they will have an easier time of it than you ever did. :)

      – Natasha Tracy

  88. Is it fair to bring a child into the world knowing they will likely have a mental illness? Is it fair to expose a child to a mentally ill mother?

    Of course it is! Just because I have bipolar disorder does not mean I never wanted to exist. Nobody’s parents are perfect, and a mentally ill mother actually has a lot to give.

    The decision to have children is an important one for everyone and they must consider their circumstances and their capacity to adequately care for the child. Mental illness does not rule out parenthood automatically, and to discourage reproduction in any group would certainly reduce our gene pool.

    Remember every characteristic is an advantage in some situations and a disadvantage in others. Remember the story of the black and white moths during the industrial revolution? The moths lived on white tree trunks and produced both black and white offspring. The white offspring survived so most of the population was white. But then the industrial revolution came and turned the tree trunks black. Suddenly it was the black moths who survived to carry on the species.

    The moral of the story is that humans need diversity in order to survive changing circumstances. Mania may not be useful in our current situation but who’s to say it won’t be useful in the future?

    • Hi Sarah,

      “Just because I have bipolar disorder does not mean I never wanted to exist.”

      That’s an excellent point, but not one I really identify with. I identify more with all the people who didn’t want to exist to the point of killing themselves. 15%. That’s 1-in-6. That’s a lot.

      “Mental illness does not rule out parenthood automatically”

      I agree completely. My perspective is just mine. It’s not about everyone with a mental illness. People experience the illness very differently and some people are in very different life circumstances than I am. Their opinion is likely very different.

      I’m glad you have such hope for the illness in the future. That’s a great gift to have and to give.

      – Natasha Tracy

      • “not wanting to exist” is a raw point for all of us with mental illness. If you’ve ever felt like that, then you know exactly what I’m talking about. To anybody else the idea of not wanting to exist is inconceivable. My intuition tells me that many more than 15% have felt this before, and somehow survived to tell the tale. For me, it was my family who got me through. I couldn’t hurt them no matter what, even though breathing, moving, eating, was more than I could take. On my first admission to hospital, my psychiatrist said “It’ll get better, Sarah”. I had to take her word on faith alone. But she was right, it did get better. From the first moment I really SAW the sunrise, my will to live came back. Slowly things got better. Back then,I couldn’t see the future But I have one now. I know that one day, I might go back to that state of non-existence. I’m determined to hang onto whatever hope I can remember.

        There is always hope. Persevere with your treatment, your lifestyle management, your therapy. Treatments are improving, and understanding is improving (thanks to you!) IT WILL get better and it’s ALWAYS worth it. Even for one little sunrise. You are worth more than all the diamonds in Botswana.

        • Hi Sarah,

          “To anybody else the idea of not wanting to exist is inconceivable. My intuition tells me that many more than 15% have felt this before, and somehow survived to tell the tale.”

          You are correct about that as estimates say about half of people with bipolar disorder have attempted suicide – luckily, most of them are not successful.

          “On my first admission to hospital, my psychiatrist said “It’ll get better, Sarah”. I had to take her word on faith alone.”

          Yes, I believe most of us intrinsically have this kind of faith, even if we don’t know it or can’t see it at the time. Sometimes we get it from our doctor. It’s a good thing to get. And you’re right, it _does_ get better. I tell people that all the time. Like never stays the same. No matter what.

          “There is always hope. Persevere with your treatment, your lifestyle management, your therapy. Treatments are improving, and understanding is improving (thanks to you!) IT WILL get better and it’s ALWAYS worth it. Even for one little sunrise. You are worth more than all the diamonds in Botswana.”

          I agree entirely.

          Thanks for your comment.

          – Natasha Tracy

  89. Natasha, this is an issue that plays on my mind a lot. I haven’t decided yet, but I am leaning on the no side at this point in my life (I am 23). It’s hard, balancing what I want, and thinking ethically about what is right for my non-existent child, and for me.

    All the best,
    Sara

    • Hi Sara,

      Well, luckily you have time on your side. Maybe by the time you want kids you’ll be in a good place with your illness and the decision won’t be so difficult.

      – Natasha Tracy

  90. Your post resonates with me too. I’m 36, watching my friends have kids. I’m on post cancer treatment that further complicates risk (hormone-driven cancer), but the main concern for me has been bipolar II. Knowing my moods swing so much. The worst consequence I think would be the disconnection during those times–which is just not good for a child.

    Like you more or less say in some of your replies, this illness can make us more sensitive to the deeper parts of life, and what a richness we could offer a child because of our perspective. But that’s only part of it. I have told friends the reason I don’t have kids is my depression (that’s the real problem for me–the hypomania isn’t bad). People say I would make a great mother. I know differently. Sometimes I would be great; sometimes I would be so self absorbed with my inner pain that the child would surely internalize that.

    It sucks. It’s like one more thing we’ve been robbed of. Thankfully I have a lot of friends without kids too, so I don’t feel as “different.” Hope you do too, if that helps you.

    Always good to hear someone else express what I feel. Thanks.

    • HI Jenn,

      Yes, it sucks watching others have kids, doesn’t it? One of my very good friends is pregnant right now, and she’s wonderful and deserves all the happiness in the world but it’s hard watching her belly, hopes and dreams grow.

      I think it’s brave of you to admit that you know you wouldn’t be a good mother at times. This is something that we, as women, are never supposed to admit to, but I think it’s critical to take a fearless look at ourselves before bringing a life into the world.

      “It sucks. It’s like one more thing we’ve been robbed of.”

      My thoughts exactly.

      “Thankfully I have a lot of friends without kids too, so I don’t feel as “different.” Hope you do too, if that helps you.”

      Different? Different is just the table stakes darling.

      – Natasha Tracy

  91. Thank you for this article. I am bp and I go through entire years with major depression. I am on medication really dangerous for a fetus so when I got married, I was real careful not to get pregnant. But I wanted a child. So I went off my medication and tried to get pregnant but it was not meant to be. I got sick again before I could get pregnant. We also looked in to adoption. I was told, on the side, that if we paid a social worker they might overlook the mental illness. Thank goodness we didn’t do that because I see that I wouldn’t of made a good parent. There are days, and times that I can barely walk my dog let alone care for another human being. In my case I do have a wonderful partner but that wouldn’t have stopped the great possibility of postpartum depression or psychosis. I have to realize that there by the grace of god go I and that I have an illness that is capable of so many tragic things that I too may have been part of that percentage that may have harmed their own child. I wasn’t brought up in the healthiest of homes so I know my parenting skills wouldn’t have been great and I would have had to have a lot of therapy and done a lot or research to get it right in the first place. Love is not always enough. It took a lot to get to a place of peace with these realities and I am okay with not having children. I am post menopausal now so there is no fear of pregnancy now. I do have my health now, for the first time in 7 years and I cherish it. I am truly grateful for my family and friends and I do not feel that my life is missing a thing without children. I have been able to travel with my husband, god bless him, and I have three dogs that keep me company and busy. I really thought at one time that life would not be complete without a child but now I realize that for me that isn’t true.

    • Hi Tracey, thank-you for sharing. It sounds like we might have had some of the same thoughts.

      It’s really great to hear that you feel like your life is complete without children. I’ve been told this isn’t true for women, but I don’t believe it. I think life is full of choices and not having children is just one of them.

      Thank-you for your perspective.

      – Natasha Tracy

  92. This is a very well-written piece.I have been diagnosed Major Depressive/Bipolar/Anxiety Disorder. Unfortunately I didn’t piece together my signs and symptoms until after I had my kids. And I love my kids and they are great joys but I, like you, having known back then what I know now would never have had kids and put them through what I go through daily. The mood swings the lowest of the lows the disconnects and agitation. It’s so unfair and my biggest fear is that they will end up just like me one day. In and out of the hospital at times with a cabinet full of pill bottles and now waiting to see if I can get Social Security Disability. Knowing then what I know now, I probably would’ve gotten my tubes tied relatively early and not had any kids because I do feel selfish no matter how hard I try to ensure they have a “normal” life I still always feel like I fall short and no one understands. But again, thanks for sharing.

    • Hi Major,

      Thank-you.

      “I, like you, having known back then what I know now would never have had kids and put them through what I go through daily. The mood swings the lowest of the lows the disconnects and agitation. It’s so unfair and my biggest fear is that they will end up just like me one day. In and out of the hospital at times with a cabinet full of pill bottles and now waiting to see if I can get Social Security Disability.”

      I’m sorry to hear that. I know that fear so well. I would never want another person to have to live my life. People don’t understand that. People assume “all life is good.” But it isn’t. Some lives are best worth avoiding. Some lives feel like a prison sentence (speaking for myself, not you, obviously).
      \
      Knowing then what I know now, I probably would’ve gotten my tubes tied relatively early and not had any kids because I do feel selfish no matter how hard I try to ensure they have a “normal” life I still always feel like I fall short and no one understands.”

      Yes, I know that feeling too.

      But I can tell you two things.

      One, as imperfect as you may be, so are we all. You do your best, which is all even the very best parents can do. Hopefully that will be enough.

      Two, your kids have an advantage – you know this about yourself and you have a window into their possible future which might help them avoid it. I can’t say that for sure, of course, but maybe. And we know that the sooner you treat a mental illness the more successful a treatment is. Which means if something does happen, hopefully your kids will have a better chance at a successful treatment than you or I ever had.

      And, as I always tell people, there are breakthroughs every day. I don’t believe we’re going to kick this thing any time soon, but I do think we learn more every year and every year the treatments get better. Just in the decade I’ve been taking medication, what we have to offer people and what we understand has changed dramatically. So there is hope that if your kids ever need help, they will have quality help available to them.

      I know that sounds a bit like cheerleading but sometimes I think cheers need to be led. Because you are here and your kids are here and so it’s beneficial to remember the hope. :) And to be gentle with yourself. You deserve that.

      – Natasha Tracy

  93. Hi Natasha

    Reading this was hard for me. I’ve tried IVF twice and because of abuse, find my body has been chewed up by infections caught in childhood. There is no repair possible. They say I have a small chance with IVF so we’ll try one last time (UK failed, but they do it differently in DUBAI so we’ll try here).

    I have bipolar, mental ill health runs in my family, as does addiction. For IVF and my long-term health I’m slowly reducing my meds as far as I can. UK told me I’d be fine on 200ml Seroqual throughout my IVF and pregnancy. They were wrong to say that. I’m down to 100ml and have been stable on it for around two months now. I’m soon going to reduce a further 25ml. I have substituted it with 1000mg Omega 3 – I’ve no idea if this is a good thing, or if its the reason I’ve had no negative side-effects from withdrawal, or any mood swing issues. I’m just saying what I’m doing and I’ve been fine reducing from 275mls so far.

    I believe my bipolar is largely settled now. I haven’t been ‘I’ll’ for a around four years – I know the signs, recognise triggers, stay away from stressful situations. I’m significantly less ill now because I’m in a stable relationship and interact rarely with people. Sounds unhealthy to many, but it works for me.

    My sister has bipolar, my niece does too. They both have kids and are great parents. They do have supportive partners though, and I know that makes a huge difference.

    I don’t think its fair to insinuate that because we suffer within ourselves that we will make our children suffer too. Whether it be genetic, or environmental, or while inside us with meds. I thought long and hard about having children before deciding to go ahead and try – The fact is, I’d be a better parent to my child than my mom was to me, in one very important way. I’d be aware of and look for the signs of mental illness. I’d educate them and remove the fear of it. My mom had no idea and still refuses to believe its not something we should grow out of ot snap out of, even in the light of my brothers suicide in 2004.

    If im lucky enough to have a child, I would make it my priority, my absolute. If I’m ill, family will help. If the child becomes ill, I’ll know and understand and share my experience with them, teach them how to deal with those fears and moods. Importantly, I’ll teach them how to avoid the kind of people who’d add to their pain – the people I seemed to be drawn to in my darkest days – or highest days – those who’d encourage self-destructive behaviours.

    Sure, if I were mentally without impairment I might produce a child without a mental illness, but its not positive. Just as its not positive I Will now. My experiences mean I have more emotional depth and understanding, more scope for compassion and empathy, more lessons-learned. A child could do well to live and learn alongside me. Much better than someone who has felt no hurt, learned nothing, felt little of any depth.

    Our illness is a curse, but it has taught me a lot about humanity and what true wealth is. I’d be happy to win millions in a lottery, but I’d be content, if I could have a child.

    Shah. X

    • Shah,

      I think that’s a completely reasonable perspective. I do think a major difference between myself and someone like you is that I can’t get my bipolar under control, and I have before, but can’t now.

      I do agree that bipolar disorder can improve understanding of emotion, humanity and life and those can be gifts to give to a child, but that doesn’t mean it has to be my child.

      And I hear what you’re saying about family helping you should you be ill, but alas, I don’t have that available to me either.

      I wish you the best of luck.

      – Natasha Tracy

  94. I have Bipolar and I am a single mother of 1. Prior to my daughter’s birth, I had only ever been diagnosed as Recurring Major Depressive with the occasional Psychosis NOS in addition, for good measure. This was before BP II and III and on further down the line was really understood.. the differing shades and shadows of Bipolar, as a whole.

    I was married, at the time of her birth, am no longer.. reason for the single motherhood. It’s been rough, I won’t lie.

    Prior to her birth, I had said many times over many years that I did not want children. I was afraid. I became pregnant and during the course of that pregnancy, lost that child. I grieved deeply and ended up IP for 28 days with psychosis and mixed mania.

    A year later, I became pregnant again… and fear consumed me. Yet, this one held and she is 15 now and smart as a whip. She has anxiety issues, some OCD traits but all in all.. she is okay so far (was ruled out on the Bipolar from a clinician a year ago).

    She knows of my Bipolar, finds my mania to be odd and funny… just momma being “crazy” and “squirrely”. My suicidal depressions, she has always referred to them as “momma’s sad sickness”. It’s not a pretty thing for your child to know of your mental illness so up front and personal, sometimes I say things during symptomatic episodes that are so harsh and often I withdraw from activities due to other symptomatic issues.

    I’ve even left her, here and there, for IP visits. Never any fun and always stressful for both she and I. Yet, we are a package… the 2 of us. When you take 1, you get the other.

    She is the sole and only reason I choose to wake each morning. The only reason I bear through to make it through the dark nights. The only reason I struggle with the craziness of my brain to try and keep things together.

    The 1 thing I’ve ever done right, having her, and she’s worth it. Just one story of someone with a life long struggle with MI and kids. I realize not everyone’s story is the same but, it is mine.

  95. Wow.Natasha, I loved reading this because I am also 33 with no children but diagnosed with bipolar. I have questioned so many times whether I should have children or whether I should even get married. Because, like you said, “my moods will override that child sometimes. I know they would. They override everything. They destroy everything at times”. I have met parents who have bipolar and in a strange way their mad existence as a mother encouraged me and even my relationship with my 3 nephews have encouraged me. I have “lost” it on them several times saying hurtful things I shouldn’t have said but their forgiveness and understanding has been unbelievable and their desire to spend time with me only increases. I don’t know what the answer is for me. I still pray for a child, a little girl, and I think often of adoption. Adoption is very needed now with all the children that do not have homes. That would save me from 9 months of pregnancy and the possibility of postpartum, but it is not the same as having your own. I think there are so many things that have to be factored into a decision like this, and you are right it is definitely a selfless act to choose not to have a child because of this. It would be a difficult choice but a selfless choice. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and starting your blog. It is relieving to know of someone else going through the same thought process as me.

    • Hi Laura,

      I understand “praying for a little girl” but I always wonder, are those prayers for a little girl in the “perfect world” or the one in which we actually live. Because I could see myself being a great mother, in a world other than this one, but it’s really this one that I’m worried about.

      And just for the record, I don’t agree that adoption “isn’t the same.” I know people say that, but I don’t agree. I don’t think carrying on genes matters a whit when you can love and raise a child. That child will be like you, not because you birthed them, but because you were there every day of their lives. You will have chosen to love them, above all other choices, which is a bond that is at least as strong as sharing blood.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. It’s nice to hear someone else struggling with the same ideas.

      – Natasha Tracy

      • “And just for the record, I don’t agree that adoption “isn’t the same.” I know people say that, but I don’t agree. I don’t think carrying on genes matters a whit when you can love and raise a child. That child will be like you, not because you birthed them, but because you were there every day of their lives. You will have chosen to love them, above all other choices, which is a bond that is at least as strong as sharing blood.” — Natasha Tracy

        Dear Natasha,

        Add another extremely important point that attracts me to your writings; your youthful wisdom and insightful clarity.

        As a parent to a magnificent, gorgeous, beautiful and intelligent baby girl adopted by Joyce and me some 45 years ago, I can attest to your wisdom. Giving birth to a child doesn’t make one a parent or even more importantly a reasonably good parent. I can also attest to the fact that being a parent and having a spouse with mental health issues was very challenging not only for me but our daughter as well.

        We are blessed that our daughter is reasonably well adjusted, intelligent, educated, happy, unchallenged by mental health issues and she and her husband have given us two absolutely delicious, adorable, wonderful, intelligent and happy granddaughters of which we have not contributed one single gene. It makes absolutely no difference and the bond may well be stronger than blood.

        Many times I’ve asked our daughter if she has interest in connecting with her biological mother, as I have the information. Her response has been, “You’re my parents. Drop the subject.”

        As always, I wish you wellness and all the good you’d wish for yourself.

        Warmly,
        Herb
        vnsdepression@gmail.com
        http://www.vnstherapy-herb.blogspot.com/

        • Hi Herb,

          Thanks for sharing. I’m not sure I deserve your lavish praise, but thank-you.

          It’s great to hear a success story of adoption. I believe there are many and people need to know that.

          – Natasha Tracy

  96. I just want to add that I’m very glad you are on this planet. I totally respect your choice not to have children because of your own well-being and ability to care for them. I would be upset however if someone else were to tell you not to have children since there is a history in this country of sterilizing women with mental illness as recently as 30 years ago. Those days may have passed but with the bulk of research focusing on finding genetic answers to these illnesses, I worry that we might see a resurgence of eugenics to screen people like you and me from the population.

    • MMC,

      Thanks.

      “I would be upset however if someone else were to tell you not to have children…”

      Yes, I would be too. It’s not a right of someone else to tell people to or not to have children.

      “I worry that we might see a resurgence of eugenics to screen people like you and me from the population.”

      Yes, I have heard this concern before, but I think it’s a really personal question. People currently are told of genetic defects and major abnormalities during pregnancy and I respect the rights of parents to terminate that pregnancy if they so choose. And what’s the difference between that a choosing not to bring a child in the world with a mental illness?

      I guess I have different perspective from others with a mental illness because many people do recover and successfully go on to live full and happy lives, but so many of us don’t. So many of us are destroyed by mental illness and even die of it. I’m not sure it’s so wrong not to want to bring a child into the world who has a potentially fatal illness. I’m not suggesting it be the default position, but I think I would understand if that’s what a pregnant woman wanted to do.

      – Natasha Tracy

  97. Hi Natasha, I had four children before I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and indeed the postnatal depression did get worse each time. I believe that two out of the four may have inherited this condition. So do I regret having children? ABSOLUTELY NOT! If my life can be filled with meaning and good, so can theirs! Life is filled with pain and difficult circumstances of one kind or another, and no-one has a monopoly on them (certainly not people with bipolar disorder), but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have children! There are more resources and medication than there have ever been to deal with this disorder, and slowly the stigma surrounding mental illness is being erased. It does not follow either that because you have bipolar disorder you will automatically divorce. I know plenty of people who are married and continue to be married because of great spouses who love them unconditionally and may have some things of their own to deal with! Just another viewpoint Natasha.

    • Hi Elizabeth,

      I agree that any life can have pain and difficulties, that’s my problem. People have enough trouble without handing them this genetic gift of mine as well. Or handing them a mother with a mental illness, which I’m thinking, is no picnic for many.

      I wouldn’t expect people to regret having children. But that’s not the same thing as me purposefully having one.

      And yes, there are absolutely more resources and treatments than there have ever been and for all the children out there, I hope that they will never get seriously symptomatic due to early intervention and effective treatment. That’s my hope. But I’m fairly intractable and treatment-resistant and that’s just not an acceptable thing. For me, or anyone else.

      I’m not suggesting people would divorce due to mental illness, I’m saying people ought to consider what divorce looks like because more than half of _all_ couples divorce irrespective of mental wellness.

      Yes, any life _can_ be good but I hate to think of a new, innocent life starting out with so many strikes against them. I despise that I had them. I don’t want to give them to others.

      – Natasha Tracy

    • Thank you for your comment Elizabeth. It is reassuring. I agree with Natasha as she states there is a difference in regretting versus never choosing to make the decision in the first place but it is good to hear you talk about it from a stand point of being on the other side.

  98. My wife went into pyshosis mode just when she was supposed to recover from mymectomy surgery (removal of fibroids in the uterus).It’s now 3months, and she’s on medication. This has changed all our life that she’s no longer the person she was before this happened. I always pray that she totally recovers.

    • Hi Samuel,

      That’s terrible, I’m sorry. Unfortunately, alterations with hormones can cause unpredictable mental illness symptoms. It’s good you’ve gotten help.

      All I can say is, give it time. It’s early days and full recovery may be possible.

      – Natasha Tracy

  99. That is soooo sad, I had never thought about this angle of bipolar/mental illness before. My mum had bipolar but wasn’t diagnosed til her 30’s – AFTER she’d had 4 children. We suspect our grandmother had it too. We are now aged 44 to 36 and so far so good on the bipolar front. Mind you we have each had our own struggle with depression, largely due to to the difficult upbringing we had – but I should mention this was more due to the fact that mum also had borderline personality disorder, which in my book is 100 times worse than bipolar!!!! I have two teenagers myself now, and watch them like a hawk for any signs, confident that these days the treatments and quality of life can be so much better for people who are diagnosed …thank you for sharing so honestly about a difficult subject. I think you are very brave both for writing about it, and for making the decision not to have children in the first place.

    • Hi Janet,

      Good to hear you’re doing well against the odds :) I’m sure having an upbringing with an ill mom is very challenging. My father is an alcoholic, which is different, but ill nonetheless. He was also diagnosed with bipolar but the addiction was really foremost in his life – probably to get away from the bipolar.

      You’re absolutely right, treatments are better today than they ever have been. So watch those kids and get help early if they need it. The earlier it’s treated, the better the outcome. But it sounds like you’ve got a handle on that one already.

      Thanks for your kind words also.

      – Natasha Tracy

  100. I did not know that Postpartum psychosis has an infanticide rate of 10% – 15%. OMG.
    I have one child but I was not diagnosed until two years after her birth. I am sure I was not bipolar before and it was triggered by the birth hormones. My husband and both have bipolar but out child at age five is doing exceptionally well. http://www.madambipolar.com/2011/09/miss-charisma.html So don’t underestimate the resilience of children. However, she does have a 40% chance of bipolar but I am being positive and hoping she is in the 60%. Regardless, we will know how to help her. I am like Hannah and glad I was not diagnosed until after her birth, otherwise I never would have had children.
    That being said, I respect and admire your decision. You have thought it through rationally. Bipolar disorder sucks and this is another example of how it impacts upon our lives.
    There will be no more children here. Postpartum psychosis affects 50-90% of women who have had a bipolar episode in the past. (ref Black Dog Institute). It scares the hell out of me.

    • Hi MadamBipolar,

      I agree, that number is _shocking_. I couldn’t believe when I learned it. It really shows how terrible we are at screening for mental illness, particularly after childbirth.

      Hopefully your child will be fine into adulthood. The one thing I will say is that parents who are acutely aware of the risk I think can _reduce_ the risk by, well, being better parents. And some parents successfully manage this. And, of course, you can always look for the signs early and we do know that the sooner someone is treated the more successful the outcome. So there is always hope.

      And yes, postpartum psychosis scares the hell out of me too. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be a woman who suffered from it and then hurt her child because of it. It’s just beyond horrors.

      – Natasha

  101. I made a similar decision, and had surgical sterilization, for reasons like yours but not as well articulated. Basically, it was because I knew that because I wasn’t often able to function well and couldn’t manage my own life independently, there was no way I could handle a child too. It wasn’t selfish, it was to spare a child from sharing a terrible life.

    • Sandra,

      I think that’s very brave. You made a permanent decision and that is an extremely difficult thing to do.

      “It was to spare a child a terrible life”

      I agree, and that’s the opposite of selfish.

      – Natasha

  102. Hi Natasha,

    Thanks for sharing your thought process as you made this decision. My impression is that doctors sometimes minimize the risks that women with mood disorders take on if they decide to have a child. To my mind, such doctors provide a disservice to a patients who are trying to make an informed decision. As you point out, this choice involves so many factors. The risk that medication could affect the fetus is only one aspect.

    I want to add to the discussion by stating that researchers know more about the safety of some psychiatric medications than others. For your readers, Massachusetts General Hospital has some outstanding resources for women on who are trying to assess the risks of taking psychiatric medications during pregnancy. Three sites I recommend are:

    “Bipolar medications during pregnancy – should medications be discontinued?”
    http://www.womensmentalhealth.org/posts/bipolar-disorder-and-pregnancy-should-medications-be-discontinued-2/

    “Can women taking lithium breastfeed their infants?”
    http://www.womensmentalhealth.org/posts/can-women-taking-lithium-breastfeed-their-infants/

    “Selecting an antidepressant during pregnancy” http://www.womensmentalhealth.org/posts/selecting-an-antidepressant-during-pregnancy/

    – Amy Karon

    • Hi Amy,

      I agree, doctors _do_ minimize the risk. All they think about is which drug is OK to use while pregnant but everything else seems to escape them. I would be pretty shocked if the average doctor even knew numbers on postpartum depression, psychosis or infantacide.

      You’re right, there is more and more information on pregnancy and mental illness and pregnancy and medication, but I’ve done the research and while they “think” some drugs are “OK” they really don’t know. Some drugs we do know are explicitly contraindicated and others are just in the “maybe OK” category. If you have to take them, you should know, but I wouldn’t say any drugs are safe during pregnancy.

      There’s a study here but you have to translate it into English (Google does it for you) http://tidsskriftet.no/article/2066427

      There are quite a few others as well, but pregnancy and medication is just an area that is difficult to study, for obvious reasons, and the data is incomplete or non-existent.

      – Natasha

  103. Frankly I don’t understand why everyone wants kids considering the lack of sleep, pain of childbirth and overall stress involved with being a parent. Just remember that adoption is always an option–much less taxing on your body and you can still have the parenthood experience with someone else worrying about the diapers and toilet training!!

  104. Thank you for your honesty! I had to make these decisions because of chronic pain ten years ago: passing the disease on, can I care for an innocent child. I decided not to have biological children, then ended up with a hysterectomy at 33. And now the bipolar diagnosis, so again glad I won’t pass it on but still think I can’t care for a child the way a child deserves to be cared for.

    • Hi Deborah,

      “…think I can’t care for a child the way a child deserves to be cared for.”

      I think that’s so brave of you to say.

      People think it’s because I don’t like children, but that’s not it, it’s because I _do_ care about children and I believe they deserve the very best possible.

      – Natasha Tracy

  105. My son is the result of a manic spell that left my life it tatters—except him and his dad. I wasn’t going to have kids. Knowing I was responsible for him got me medicated and fight to be medicated correctly. He’s 7, & we’re not there yet but close. Since me being medicated is all he knows, he deals well. When I’m having a rough time he sighs, brings me Xanex and a water & says we need a nap mommy. Its made him a lot more empathetic. If I had it too do over again, I don’t know what I’d do. But I know we want to go off-med so I can feed my addiction to Mania, he’s what stops me. And he’s bright, caring, mischievious, talkative child. And when I call my mom crying because I feel I’m too hard on him, she laughs and said I use to yell at you like that and I can’t blame it on mental illness. So though its hard, and I had chosen not to have any kids, I’m glad for our “mistake”.

    • Hi Monica,

      That sounds like a tumultuous story with a pretty happy ending :)

      It’s great to hear you value your child enough to work at staying well. It’s a challenge for anyone but I’m sure you agree that a healthy mom is a much better mom.

      “And he’s bright, caring, mischievious, talkative child.”

      I love that.

      “So though its hard, and I had chosen not to have any kids, I’m glad for our “mistake”.”

      There’s that happy ending. :)

      – Natasha Tracy

      • My only worry is that as he gets older (and he’s smart, it won’t be long) that he starts saying I need Xanex when in reality he’s being a pain and needs to be yelled at.

        • Monica,

          Well, I hear all kids try to manipulate their parents so your might just be a bit trickier. And hey, you can always have the Xanax _and_ yell :) (Little joke there.)

          – Natasha Tracy

          • Somedays that’s needed too. But its also the reason my husband has turned down promotions too. He doesn’t want me anywhere where I don’t have one of our moms close enough to help!

    • Dear Monica,

      I hope that your good relationship with your son goes on. I have 6 children, but two of them have been terrible to me since they (they are twins) turned about 13. I had been in remission from my bipolar for 21 years, and delivering them brought it back in a worse form that when I had it from age 16 to 19. You can read my post dated
      March 6, 2016 Leila Moore. My younger twins are not empathetic at all.

  106. I have bipoar disorder and made the painful decision not to have children in my early thirties. My husband and I tried several times to conceive, but I just couldn’t survive without my meds. Many friends and relatives were insensitive to our plight. People with children just don’t seem to understand that people who choose not to have children, have many valid reasons for doing so.

    Natasha, I’ve never seen my choice validated so eloquently. Thank you.

    • Hi Michelle,

      I think it’s common for people (especially with bipolar) to not be able to survive without their meds. It’s why we take them, after all.

      I’m sorry to hear others were insensitive during that time. I can only imagine how difficult and painful it was and you needed compassion more than ever. It’s sad that other people don’t see that.

      “People with children just don’t seem to understand that people who choose not to have children, have many valid reasons for doing so.”

      I think that’s true in many cases. But people can’t understand what it’s like to have a sick brain and so they can’t understand the impact a sick brain can have. It’s unfortunate there isn’t more compassion or empathy on the matter. Because choosing not to have children is extremely painful, the last thing you need is other people piling onto an already difficult decision.

      “Natasha, I’ve never seen my choice validated so eloquently. Thank you.”

      You’re welcome. I’m glad I could give your feelings words.

      – Natasha Tracy

      • Natasha,
        Look at all you have accomplished with or in spite of your sick brain.You have your degrees. You are an award winning writer. You hire yourself out for speaking engagements. Quite an awful lot for a someone with a sick brain.

  107. Hi Natasha,
    you had written:”I feel like I _know_ I _could_ be a good mother but I also _know_ the disease won’t allow it.”
    this alone shows what a responsible woman you are. You are aware of having, sad to say, this illness.
    I think with this attitude you would be a good mother, cause I see that you would do anything but be a good mother to your child. I know a young man who is BP and refuses any help at all as he refuses to accept this illness. So he does a lot of damage to his social life and family life. But who can tell if a mother , without this illness would be a better one? To me , as a mother of eight, having gone through a plenty of rough time within my marriage making me almost “go nuts”, I think that being aware and knowing how to handle situations is good enough. You strike to me as a very mature woman, one that cares about life, one that loves life. I have known others, and they are not officially mentally ill, yet I see them as a s.o. who has kids just for the sake of keeping the status of being a wife , a mother etc., and are not devoted to being a mother at all.
    We all get in situations where we are about to “hit the ceiling” when things get rough. So who can really tell if it is allright to get pregnant with BP, except for the medications.
    Yet the decision is up to you.
    In my eyes the awareness counts , the attitude, and you do have a healthy one .
    Erika

    • Hi Erika,

      Yes, it’s true, I am very responsible. It’s a blessing and a curse really.

      “I think with this attitude you would be a good mother, cause I see that you would do anything but be a good mother to your child.”

      I wish that were true. It’s just such a gamble to leap into motherhood based on that belief.

      “But who can tell if a mother , without this illness would be a better one?”

      This is absolutely true, but luckily for me, I’m not worried about those mothers, only me. (My mother didn’t have a mental illness and I don’t think she faired too well.)

      “In my eyes the awareness counts , the attitude, and you do have a healthy one .”

      Thank-you that is very kind.

      (And 8 kids, what are you, crazy? ;)

      – Natasha Tracy

      • ” and 8 kids, are you crazy ?” Crazy is relative. When something it out of the norm one calls it crazy. All depends. But hey, don´t bury yourself too much into this , you also deserve good life, just like I want it. I highly admire you for you standing up to life and all that it brings to you.
        We all have ups and downs , with or without mental illness. And sometimes I don´t care, just want to live and enjoy my life, this is the only one I have.
        wish you a good weekend
        Erika alsos (@AkireEkmleh on twitter)

        • Hi Erika,

          Crazy is relative – and you have lots of relatives. ;)

          OK, that was a joke. So was the “crazy” comment. Of course you’re not crazy for having eight kids. Personally, I have trouble envisioning a house with eight children, but that’s the thing, we’re all different. And obviously eight worked for you.

          I wish us all (and your kids) that good life. :) And a good weekend to you. Thanks for the follow on Twitter. I’ll see you around over there too.

          – Natasha Tracy

  108. I had children in my early twenties, long before I was diagnosed as bp 2. If I had waited until my thirties I probably wouldn’t have had children at all. However I did have them and they appear to be healthy well-adjusted kids, in spite of everything. Also, their biological dad was once hospitalized for mania and had a bp 1 diagnosis. So my kids really got a double whammy of bad genetics. Despite my mood swings and all the chaos the kids are all right. I’m really uncomfortable with telling all people with mental illnesses not to have children. For one thing, I don’t believe genetics are the only cause of bp, I believe that a lifetime of abuse and trauma have left scars on my psyche that refuse to heal. I’m not convinced that it is strictly DNA. My genes aren’t all bad, I’m intelligent and I manage to hold down a job and I have many friends. I’m still a successful person despite my dx. Nobody has perfect genes. Where does it end? Should we tell everybody with a health problem to never have children? It sounds a bit like eugenics. While I certainly understand why anybody would choose not to have kids, this advice makes me uncomfortable. There is also adoption to consider. That way you could parent without worrying so much about passing on your mental illness. But an adopted child may also be imperfect, like everybody else.

    • Hi Tanya,

      As one person on Twitter put it, it’s less about the diagnosis and more about the prognosis. I know who I am and what my illness is like and that’s not necessarily like someone else with bipolar. Some people really are well-controlled on meds. I’m just not.

      And certainly, you are correct, genetics are only part of the cause of bipolar disorder. However, as I mentioned, mental illness has cut a swath through my family and I have no reason to believe that wouldn’t continue. I wrote a post on the factors that contribute to mental illness, and certainly there is a long list outside genetics. But genetics is one of the biggest factors and can’t be ignored.

      And as I said, it isn’t just genes, it’s also the actual having of the child and the parenting with a mental disorder. And yes, adoption would remove the genes and pregnancy issues but I really don’t think any reputable adoption agency would give a child to me given my medical issues. Again, maybe if I had a perfect upstanding partner. I don’t know.

      But none of that solves the problem of trying to be a parent while being this sick. There’s just no getting around that.

      – Natasha Tracy

    • Tanya,
      Thank you for your post. I have bipolar and my ex-husband was diagnosed schizoaffective. So far our daughters are OK. I didn’t take any meds for depression until after they were born. I think bipolar is also caused by traumam I am on SSD thinking about returning to work I have a MSSW in social work.
      Pam

      • Hi Pam,

        Trauma is absolutely a contributing factor to mental illness but I believe you need the genetic predisposition as well. And some people are so heavily burdened genetically, that no trauma is required for them to manifest the illness.

        – Natasha

  109. In a way I’m really glad I wasn’t diagnosed until after my son and daughter were born. Because I know it would have been an overwhelming difficult decision to make, knowing what I know now. I love them and am so glad to have them. But the facts do exist that sometimes bipolar makes me a not so great mother and that my son has aspergers and my daughter has mood issues already. I can’t help but think they got though issues genetically from me. So, would I go back and have them again? OF COURSE!! But would I have kids if I could go back in time knowing all I know now but not knowing “my” kids? Maybe not.

    • Hi Hannah,

      An excellent point.

      I wish I had had more of a life before the illness. But I didn’t. I had almost none. Which means all my decisions are bipolar-tainted, if you will.

      Knowing that you love your kids is wonderful. Understanding that your mood disorder stands in the way of good mothering sometimes is brave and honest. Hopefully those two things together can help you make good decisions for you and your loved ones.

      Thanks for your comment.

      – Natasha Tracy

      • Talking about life before illness, I don’t think I had lived a lot of life before bipolar, it’s just that I hadn’t been diagnosed yet. I was 20 when I got pregnant with my first son (totally unplanned) and had only been dating his dad about 3 weeks. So I think my decisions were also pretty bipolar tainted. My parents and friends all just thought I was an adrenalin junkie and super adventurous, none of us at the time recognizing manic behavior or knowing what it was.

        • Hannah,

          Ah, I see. Yes, I’ve always been paranoid about getting pregnant. I never wanted to bring a child into this world until I was good and ready, assuming I ever was, but I hear most of the children get here from little surprises.

          And most people appreciate those surprises in the long run. Much like yourself. :)

          – Natasha

        • I also got pregnant unexpectedly. A surprise and a blessing all wrapped into one. And it also was after only a few weeks of knowing him. Made it official nearly 3weeks in and 5 days later (according to estimated conception date) was pregnant. But I wouldn’t have changed a thing! Glad I’m not the only one lol

  110. When I first saw the title I immediately thought “no way!”, being bipolar offspring of a bipolar mother. But really that was more about my own wish not to exist and doesn’t apply to other people, and as I read the article I felt very saddened by your conclusion, because everything I’ve seen you say would lead me to believe you’d probably be a very good mother (not that I think I am qualified to judge that, so this is a humbly offered gut reaction, not a counter-argument).

    There are so many terrible parents around and most of them are not diagnosed as mentally ill. It seems to me that a child with a bipolar mother who has a great deal of insight into her condition would stand a better chance of surviving childhood unruined than a child of a mother who isn’t bipolar, but has emotional and mental limitations she has no insight into.

    Regardless of the conclusions anyone might make, it’s a very important question and needs to be asked, so this is a great post.

    • Hi BermondsetLamb,

      Actually, one of the kickers is that I think I would be a good mother, in theory. I think I have a lot of offer a child. It’s one of the things that saddens me about the decision. I feel like I _know_ I _could_ be a good mother but I also _know_ the disease won’t allow it.

      My friend once told me that it would be OK if I was a mom. My kids would just know that I was sick and it would be OK. Assuming I had a partner who could pick up the slack I could not, of course.

      But even if they were true, there is still the matter of genes. And mine should not be passed anywhere.

      – Natasha Tracy

  111. This is a brave and unselfish decision, one that too many
    women, both those diagnosed with mental and pbysical
    illnesses and those simoly too self-involved to parent,
    fail to make,
    For those who love children and see themselves as
    potentially great parents in the best of circumstances,
    this is a painful choice. Since you can’t get your arms around that child you
    saved from yourself and because people don’t generally
    congratulate you for resisting a natural impulse, it can be
    a lonely decision that resonates forever.

    • Hi MSBrown,

      Thank-you for the well-written comment.

      And I agree, many people make the selfish decision to have children but it has nothing to do with mental illness – as you say, they are just too self-involved to be good parents.

      ” it can be a lonely decision that resonates forever.”

      Yes, that would be about right.

      – Natasha