Background: Challenges for the clinical management of bipolar disorder (BD) during pregnancy are multiple and complex and include competing risks to mother and offspring.
Method: We reviewed recent research findings on the course of BD during pregnancy and postpartum, as well as reproductive safety data on the major mood stabilizers.
Results: Pregnancy, and especially the postpartum period, are associated with a high risk for recurrence of BD. This risk appears to be limited by mood-stabilizing treatments and markedly increased by the abrupt discontinuation of such treatments. However, drugs used to treat or protect against recurrences of BD vary markedly in teratogenic potential: there are low risks with typical neuroleptics, moderate risks with lithium, higher risks with older anticonvulsants such as valproic acid and carbamazepine, and virtually unknown risks with other newer-generation anticonvulsants and atypical antipsychotics (ATPs).
Conclusions: Clinical management of BD through pregnancy and postpartum calls for balanced assessments of maternal and fetal risks and benefits.