Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Latest News: Blood Test May Determine Bipolar Disorder!

This is great news in the mental health field -- a physical test to determine bipolar disorder! I imagine this could help misdiagnosis and could help get people treatment much sooner. I've read in numerous places that the average bipolar patient took 8-10 years before they were properly diagnosed. Which is tragic -- how many lives were ruined because they weren't getting proper treatment?

I personally was misdiagnosed as having depression and an anxiety disorder for 10 years. I started seeing a psychiatrist when I was 14 -- I was even hospitalized and saw at least 3 different psychiatrists and 3 therapists - and yet no one picked up on the fact that I was bipolar - despite the fact that I was clearly going through periods of hypomania and even full-blown mania. And yet they couldn't figure out why antidepressants didn't work when I was in a low period. So they just kept raising the dosage.

In fact it was antidepressants that threw me into the worst manic episode I ever had -- where I went into a full-blown psychosis. Going into psychosis and being hospitalized had a tremendous affect on my life. I don't think I returned to a more "normal" state for 3-4 months -- and I didn't feel like myself for at least a year - because I was doped up on antipsychotic medications that made me constantly tired and dampened my personality (it kept me from being manic and it also kept me from feeling normal happiness) - not to mention that the combination of Depakote and Zyprexa made me gain 55 pounds in 3 months.

And now back to the news on the blood test ...

Here's the story from FoxNews.com:
Study: Blood Test May Determine Bipolar Disorder
A simple blood test could now diagnose and help treat patients suffering from bipolar disorder, according to new research from Indiana University’s School of Medicine.

The study is published in the Feb. 26 online edition of the Molecular Psychiatry journal.

Research has shown that certain biomarkers are found in differing amounts in the blood of individuals who suffer from varying degrees of mood disorders, according to a news release. Doctors could use these biomarkers to determine treatment for those suffering with bipoloar disorder, the study found.

"This discovery is a major step towards bringing psychiatry on par with other medical specialties that have diagnostic tools to measure disease states and the effectiveness of treatments," said Dr. Alexander B. Niculescu III, lead author and assistant professor of psychiatry, medical neurobiology and neuroscience at the IU School of Medicine Institute of Psychiatric Research, in a news release.

"Although psychiatrists have been aware that bipolar illness and other psychiatric conditions produced molecular changes in the brain, there was no way to measure those changes while the patient was living," Niculescu said. "Blood now can be used as a surrogate tissue to diagnose and assess the severity of the illness."

Here's a longer more indepth article from MSNBC on the blood test and what it means to the mental health field

Check out the full study on Nature.com

Omega 3 During Pregnancy for Mental Health

Research shows that consuming Omega 3 Fatty Acids has both a mood elevating and mood stabilizing quality. There have been 21 human studies that have looked at Omega-3 for mood in adults. Some of them have been in bipolar disorder, some in depression.
There is also one study found that Omega 3s can be a treatment for pediatric bipolar patients. Here is an excellent article about the benefits of Omega 3 for people with bipolar disorder.

A mention this on this blog because Omega 3 are also great for pregnant women. Studies have shown that women who consume (either through diet i.e. fish or supplements) higher amounts of omega 3 are more alert and more advanced than babies whose mothers did not consume Omega 3s. Read the article here

I first started taking Omega supplements because my psychiatrist recommended it years ago as something to use in addition to traditional psych meds. During my pregnancy I upped the amount I was taking to 4 grams a day of a highly concentrated supplement - I like OmegaBrite it is a lot more expensive than most brands but highly distilled.

I've always believed that taking the Omega has helped my moods ... so if you are pregnant I highly recommend adding this to your prenatal vitamin regimine especially if you are not on meds.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Sleep Deprivation in the Early Weeks

By far the biggest challenge of being a bipolar mom is the lack of sleep in the first few weeks. (I believe it is probably the biggest challenge for ALL moms) I've gotten a bunch of emails asking me if that has affected my bipolar disorder. Unfortunately I have to answer that yes it has been difficult -- but luckily I've learned to cope. I did go a few weeks where I think I became a little hypomanic - but it never escalated (I'd say 50% of the time for me hypomania does ramp up to mania for me). And both of the times when I felt hypomanic were definitely brought on by a lack of sleep.

The first happened right after the birth. I didn't sleep at all in the hospital not a wink. I figured I went at least 66 hours with NO sleep. And after that I only got about 3-4 a night for the first week. Which explains why two days after coming home I was out shopping.

The good news is that my daughter has just now started really sleeping through the night (defined as 7 hours between feedings). I think this is pretty good for 10 weeks old. In fact one night she went 8 hours! The bad thing was I was having some insomnia so on the night I could have had more sleep than every I missed out.

I think a cruel joke is that many baby books define "sleeping through the night" as 5 hours between feedings. And since feedings are counted from the beginning of one feeding to the beginning of the next the most you could get in that 5 hours is a baby who is asleep for 4.5 hours. Who's definition of through the night is really 4.5 hours?

I have been really blessed that my husband has helped a lot with the nighttime so that I can get more sleep. I highly recommend for any bipolar new mom that you get help at night whether it is a spouse, mother, or hired night nurse.

At night my husband changes all the diapers and puts her back to sleep after I feed her. In fact for a few weeks he slept in the guest bedroom with the bassinet and would bring her to me when it was time to feed her (I'm breastfeeding so he couldn't really take over nighttime feedings) and then would take her when I was done and get her back to sleep. In the early weeks she sometimes had her days and nights confused so she would sleep more during the day than at night ... so having my husband be responsible at night was really a godsend. During the first three weeks she ate every 2.5-3 hours rounds the clock so the most sleep possible at one stretch was 2.5 hours.

Sometimes I think I should have done formula feeding at night because then my husband could have feed her and formula-fed babies supposedly can go longer between feedings. My initial plan was actually to either use formula or pump and have my husband do at least one feeding at night. However, once she was born I decided I didn't want to do any supplemental formula because so many things I read said that giving a newborn formula can sometimes hinder breastfeeding because the baby might like the formula or bottle more than breast milk. I didn't start pumping until 7 weeks for various reasons and at that point the nighttime sleep had been better.

Looking back if I could do it over again I would have introduced a bottle at night so that I would have gotten more like 5 hours of sleep in a row if my husband feed her. So I guess that is what I will do for Baby #2 - one day.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Antiepileptic Pregnancy Registry

Sorry it's been so long since my last post -- having a newborn doesn't leave much time!

A few weeks ago I got my copy of the AED Registry newsletter and they said they will be releasing UPDATED results on the registry data soon.

You can see the newsletter online at