Treatment of bipolar disorders during pregnancy: Maternal and fetal safety and challenges

Richard A. Epstein*, Katherine M. Moore, William V. Bobo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Treating pregnant women with bipolar disorder is among the most challenging clinical endeavors. Patients and clinicians are faced with difficult choices at every turn, and no approach is without risk. Stopping effective pharmacotherapy during pregnancy exposes the patient and her baby to potential harms related to bipolar relapses and residual mood symptom-related dysfunction. Continuing effective pharmacotherapy during pregnancy may prevent these occurrences for many; however, some of the most effective pharmacotherapies (such as valproate) have been associated with the occurrence of congenital malformations or other adverse neonatal effects in offspring. Very little is known about the reproductive safety profile and clinical effectiveness of atypical antipsychotic drugs when used to treat bipolar disorder during pregnancy. In this paper, we provide a clinically focused review of the available information on potential maternal and fetal risks of untreated or undertreated maternal bipolar disorder during pregnancy, the effectiveness of interventions for bipolar disorder management during pregnancy, and potential obstetric, fetal, and neonatal risks associated with core foundational pharmacotherapies for bipolar disorder.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7-29
Number of pages23
JournalDrug, Healthcare and Patient Safety
StatePublished - Dec 24 2014


  • Anticonvulsants
  • Antiepileptics
  • Antipsychotics
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Pregnancy
  • Safety

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy
  • Pharmacology


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