Bipolar disorder is treated and managed using medications that stabilise your symptoms and help to reduce the likelihood of relapse. Different types of medication are used to treat the range of symptoms that you may experience, including depression, mania or both depression and mania (mixed episode).
These medications may include:
- mood stabilisers – stabilise your mood and help to reduce the likelihood of relapse
- antidepressants – reduce depressive symptoms which are part of a depressive phase of bipolar disorder
- antipsychotics – help with both manic symptoms and psychotic symptoms (delusions or hallucinations).
It’s important to discuss and review medication with your GP or psychiatrist if you’re planning a pregnancy, when you find out you’re pregnant, and following the birth. The type of medication you’re prescribed will depend on your symptoms and the stage you’re at – whether you’re planning a baby, pregnant or breastfeeding.
If you’re prescribed mood stabilisers or antipsychotic medications (such as sodium valproate, clozapine or lithium, your psychiatrist will need to weigh up the potential risks and benefits to you and your baby. Particular care is needed with sodium valproate and a psychiatrist should always be consulted.
If you’re taking mood stabilising medication while trying to conceive and in the first trimester of pregnancy, it’s important to include folate supplements in your diet. This reduces the small increased risk of birth defects with these medications.
You should always seek advice from a psychiatrist before changing or stopping medications, and always stop gradually. Your health professional may also help you develop a care plan (including contact numbers and support people) that you and your family can refer to as needed.