Managing Your Own Mood Lability: Use of Mood Stabilizers and Antipsychotics in Pregnancy

Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2016 Jan;18(1):1. doi: 10.1007/s11920-015-0646-1.


The management of psychiatric disorders during the perinatal period can be difficult; psychiatric decompensation during pregnancy can affect not only the mother but also the fetus and neonate. It is imperative that psychiatric providers proactively discuss pregnancy planning, and be able to thoughtfully weigh the risks of untreated psychiatric illness and psychotropic medications in pregnancy and breast-feeding. With the exception of valproate and carbamazepine, several mood stabilizers and antipsychotics can be utilized during pregnancy with minimal risk to the fetus and neonate in terms of major malformations; there is a growing body of evidence regarding the risk profile of use of these medications in pregnancy. Key Points Preconception planning is very helpful when it can be done; consider discussion and documentation of risks at time of administration of psychotropic medications for any reproductive-aged women, regardless of plans for conception. Continued psychiatric stability through the perinatal period is imperative; the risks of an untreated psychiatric disorder are just as important, if not more so important, than the risks of psychotropic medication exposure. Exposure to one psychotropic medication is safer than exposure to multiple medications. Utilize lowest effective dose of medication; most risks are not dose dependent, therefore would typically prefer higher dose of medication, rather than emergence of psychiatric symptoms, in order to avoid exposure of the fetus to both psychotropic medications and psychiatric symptoms. General recommendations are to avoid valproate and carbamazepine in reproductive-aged women. With close monitoring, lithium can be safely utilized in pregnancy. Preliminary data regarding use of atypical antipsychotics is reassuring in regards to major malformations; however, larger numbers of participants are needed to provide more complete reproductive safety data with this class. Clearly document risks of an untreated psychiatric illness as well as risks of psychotropic medication management to the mother and developing fetus/neonate.

Keywords: Antipsychotics; Bipolar disorder; Mood stabilizers; Pharmacotherapy; Pregnancy; Schizophrenia.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antimanic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Antipsychotic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Medication Therapy Management
  • Mental Disorders* / drug therapy
  • Mental Disorders* / psychology
  • Preconception Care / methods
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications* / drug therapy
  • Pregnancy Complications* / psychology
  • Risk Assessment
  • Self-Assessment
  • Self-Control / psychology*


  • Antimanic Agents
  • Antipsychotic Agents