Seeking Links to Bipolar Disorder, Pregnancy and Hormones

Leslie Carol Botha: If pregnancy has a positive effect on bipolar disorder – then doesn’t that mean that bipolar disorder is hormone-driven?  Perhaps women are naturally bipolar because of the two distinct hormone shifts in our menstrual cycles: 1) pre-ovulatory phase – with a rise in hormones and 2) post-ovulatory phase with a decrease in hormones. It is the role of progesterone in the post-ovulatory phase to develop the lining in the uterus for fetal development.  Also progesterone has a positive influence on feelings/moods and emotions.  Low levels of or the absence of progesterone, or an imbalanced ratio of estrogen/testosterone and progesterone can cause miscarriage.  Perhaps low levels of progesterone also affect the severity of the mood change in the post-ovulatory phase of the cycle.

Bipolar Disorder is hormone imbalance….. which is why the symptoms dissipate during pregnancy. However, if a woman is bipolar (hormone imbalanced) going into a pregnancy she will experience even more bipolar disorder postpartum since the pregnancy will have tapped her limited reserve of vital nutrients needed to keep her hormones balanced.

Bipolar, pregnancy link sought

Western News
The University of Western Ontario
By Paul Mayne
September 26, 2012

Western professor Verinder Sharma knows the subject needs clarity. So he and his team went looking for it.

Researchers understand bipolar disease is most common among young women, especially at the height of their reproductive years. Building off that, a handful of recent – and somewhat contested – studies have eyed pregnancy’s potential positive impact on controlling the disease.

Bipolar disorder – characterized by depression, hypomania or mania – can lead to suicide, infanticide and increased risk for psychiatric hospitalization during the postpartum period. During pregnancy, though, the impact remains unclear.

Through a comprehensive literature review, Sharma, a Lawson Health Research Institute scientist, and his team sought to define clearly what scientists already knew about bipolar disorder during pregnancy, and where they should look next.

The study, funded by the Ontario Mental Health Foundation, was published online last month in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

Despite contradictory findings, Sharma suggests pregnancy could have a positive impact on bipolar disorder. Throughout the literature, bipolar II disorder was either uncommon or in remission during pregnancy, and women already diagnosed had fewer and shorter episodes while pregnant. Pregnant women also had a lower risk of any other mood disorder than non-pregnant women.

“There is no period in a woman’s life when the risk of relapse of bipolar disorder is as high as in the postpartum period. This is in sharp contrast to pregnancy, when women may experience an improvement in their symptoms,” Sharma said. “If we fail to understand the effect of pregnancy on bipolar disorder, we will fail to understand bipolar disorder.”

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Author: Leslie Carol Botha

Author, publisher, radio talk show host and internationally recognized expert on women's hormone cycles. Social/political activist on Gardasil the HPV vaccine for adolescent girls. Co-author of "Understanding Your Mood, Mind and Hormone Cycle." Honorary advisory board member for the Foundation for the Study of Cycles and member of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research.