Women with bipolar disorder and risk delivering preterm babies

A recent study published in the Obstetrics and Gynecology journal in America has indicated that pregnant women who suffer from bipolar disorder face increased risks of delivering prematurely, and are at greater risk of life threatening health complications. The study also indicated that women with bipolar disorder can reduce the risks they pose to their babies by opting for simple variations in their lifestyle and behavioral traits. The study did not specifically examine the various causes behind these findings and focused instead on the health related effects and risks babies born to mothers with bipolar disorder face.

Bipolar Disorder Facts

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder occupies the sixth position in the list of leading disability causes for women of reproductive age. Despite this, very little is known about how to handle the condition effectively so that both the mother and the baby can remain free of its effects. As such, the study aimed to identify the potential impact bipolar disorder would have on mothers and their babies, as well as possible modifiable factors that would help doctors come up with the best treatment plans for patients.

Study relating bipolar disorder in mothers to pregnancy complications

new born

The study used the health records of women who had been pregnant and delivered a single child between the years 2003 and 2011. The health records were examined for instances relating to bipolar disorder in the mother during this period. The research team split the study participants into two groups; the general population and women who had been hospitalized earlier for bipolar disorder.

Risk factors of Bipolar Disorder in pregnancies

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The results of the study are quite alarming and are as follows. It has been found that:

Women who were hospitalized for bipolar disorder in the past were more likely to deliver their babies via instrumental delivery or cesarean. They were also more prone to experience non-spontaneous starts to delivery than women without bipolar disorder. In this case, the risk factor for pregnant women with bipolar disorder increases by 38% when compared to other women where the risk factor is only 20%.

Pregnant women with bipolar disorder were more at risk of delivering babies who are considerably big for their gestational age. In contrast, women who suffered from depression delivered babies who are small for their gestational age.

Pregnant women who had been previously hospitalized for bipolar disorders were more likely to deliver premature babies when compared to women without any history of psychological illnesses.

Pregnant women with bipolar disorder faced greater risks of delivering babies with congenital malformations as well as other serious complications.

Babies born to mothers who had bipolar disorder were more at risk of being readmitted in the hospital within 4 weeks of discharge.

Raising concerns about Bipolar Disorder effects

Girl smoking outdoors

Many experts believe that complications like preterm birth are great causes for concern as they would impact the health of the baby during childhood as well as adulthood. Doctors attribute preterm birth in this case to the mental healthy symptoms caused by bipolar disorder. Accordingly, these symptoms can trigger the increased secretion of stress hormones which can cause premature birth in women with bipolar disorder.

Other contributing factors to preterm birth as mentioned in the study, also include lifestyle, genetics, lack of exercise, malnutrition, smoking and low socioeconomic status.

The study titled ‘Perinatal outcomes among women with bipolar disorder: A population-based cohort study’ has many concerned about the ways in which bipolar disorder could indirectly affect the babies via their mothers.

Doctors indicate that the debate on offering appropriate treatment for pregnant women with bipolar disorder would need to center on options that are safe, healthy and less harmful. As such, pregnant women with the condition would need to be counseled about the various risks of the treatment as opposed to the risks of being untreated before delivering their babies.


A study published in the American Obstetrics and Gynecology journal indicates that pregnant women with bipolar disorder face greater risks of delivering preterm babies with several health complications. The study links bipolar disorder in these women directly to the stress hormones, which in turn would trigger a premature delivery.

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