Based on the advice we were given, we decided I would gradually stop lithium and use other medication. I also used a mood management programme called True Colours to help self-manage my mood and prepare for pregnancy. I found this really helpful in my early pregnancy. It was like an intensive mood management course, looking at triggers, relapse prevention and detailed information about, for example sleep, exercise and stress. It sounds simple, but when these things are really broken down for you, it’s very empowering. You find ways to self-manage, that are nothing to do with medication. This really helped me manage my anxiety around pregnancy.
I also had a really brilliant care co-ordinator who helped us write a plan of how to cope during the pregnancy, birth and afterwards. Part of it was a sheet with contact details of all the different people who would be involved in my care. This included the GP, psychiatrist, care coordinator and the obstetrician (a doctor specialising in pregnancy.) That was very helpful. This plan also helped my healthcare professionals work together to co-ordinate treatment more effectively.
After the birth of our first child, a baby boy, everything seemed to be going well. But when my daughter was born two years later, following a lot of stressful events during the pregnancy, I suffered postpartum psychosis. I was lucky enough to get into a Mother and Baby Unit (a specialist, in-patient unit for some women with mental health problems during pregnancy, or after the birth of their child) and keep my baby with me. But I didn’t get home for nearly six months and it was a long journey back to full health. But you do come out of the other side.
I’m very well now and Henry and I feel really blessed to have our two children. I’d like to emphasise how important it is for women with serious mental health conditions like bipolar disorder to see a perinatal specialist. I feel very passionately about women being able to access the specialist support they need before trying for a baby.