When you’re pregnant, there are so many things to you have to think about. As a woman suffering from schizophrenia, those worries can be even more complicated. Fertility rates among women with the disorder tend to be low, but what can a woman who has schizophrenia do if she finds out she’s pregnant?
First, good prenatal care is an absolute must. A mom with schizophrenia might be referred to a Maternal-Fetal medicine specialist to help her through issues her regular OBGYN may not be able to address. Some schizophrenics find their symptoms ease during pregnancy, while others might experience symptoms for the first time.
Second, it’s important to avoid drugs, smoking, and alcohol. Mothers who experience schizophrenia are more likely to engage in substance abuse during pregnancy than mothers without a mental illness. It seems like common sense these days, but it bears repeating: drug and alcohol use during pregnancy can lead to severe complications for both mom and baby.
Third, keep taking your medication. Schizophrenia is often controlled with medication, but some women who struggle with mental illness will stop taking their medication out of fear that it will harm their fetus. This can cause symptoms to worsen or lead to erratic mood changes. While the National Institute of Mental Health admits there is no drug that is completely safe during pregnancy, it is essential to work with your health care provider to choose the best course of action.
Fourth, be prepared for life after the birth. A study in Canada found that schizophrenic moms are more likely to experience a repeat pregnancy within 12 months after giving birth. This can lead to an increase in complications like severe bleeding on top of the mental, physical, and emotional stress already experienced by new parents.
Moms with schizophrenia also worry that their illness will lead them to lose custody of their children. This usually only happens in about half of every case of maternal schizophrenia, with custody usually going to a close relative. With proper care from doctors, therapists, and social services, moms who experience and live with schizophrenia can have a happy life with their children.