Would You Have a Child If You Knew They Would Have Bipolar?
People with a first-degree relative (say, a mother or father) with bipolar I have a seven times greater chance of having bipolar disorder themselves. Offspring of a parent with bipolar disorder have a 50% chance of having another major psychiatric disorder.
And if both your parents have bipolar disorder or another major mental illness? Well, I have no idea how that works out by the numbers.
In short, if you’re bipolar and having kids, there’s a very good chance that your children will have a mental illness too.
So the question is this, if you know that your child will have a mental illness, should you be having children in the first place?
Genetic Risk of Bipolar Disorder
Now, of course, no one knows if you child will have bipolar disorder. Your child may beat the odds and not have a mental illness. It’s a roll-of-the-dice, genetically speaking. But according to the numbers they have a better than even chance of having a major mental illness, and that’s pretty remarkable.
But let’s say for a minute you did know. Let’s say that you knew your child would have bipolar disorder. Would you have children then?
If You Knew Your Child Would Have Bipolar
I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t bring another person into this world to live the life I have. I wouldn’t bring another person into this world to be stuck on medication forever. I wouldn’t bring another person into this world to likely end up in psych wards and attempting suicide. I will not bring another person into this world to likely suffer for most of his or her lifetime. I just won’t do it. It isn’t fair to the person. I won’t condemn a person to a lifetime of pain just because of my theoretical biological drive to have children.
But that’s me.
Now I’m not saying that people with a mental illness aren’t lovable (as I consider myself fairly lovable) or shouldn’t exist (as, you know, I’m here), I’m just saying, if you could prevent a person from having this illness, would you? Do you really feel you have the right to create a human that you know would suffer life-long?
The Reality of People with a Mental Illness Having Children
Like I said, in reality, it’s a roll-of-the-dice and some people choose to throw the dice and some people don’t. I’m not saying either choice is right or wrong. I do think people should consider the question carefully though, as someone is going to have to live with it for the rest of his or her life.
Tracy, N. (2012, August 24). Would You Have a Child If You Knew They Would Have Bipolar?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, August 21 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/breakingbipolar/2012/08/would-you-have-child-if-knew-they-would-bipolar
Author: Natasha Tracy
I will not be having more children directly because of my diagnosis. This is both for the sake of any theoretical unborn children who could develop the disorder and for the sake of my current son - another child, even if I found a partner and hot married, would probably make me not able to cope as well and if probably be not as good of a parent to the child I already have. People with mental illness should be cautious to knowingly reproduce but of course many people have children prior to their diagnosis and in that case get therapy meds and do your best not to ruin your kid.
Remember, however great you may think life is, the unborn aren't missing out on it.
Natasha, Based on your second paragraph you clearly did not bother to research the genetic percentages. In the future I'd recommend checking facts prior to posting to this sort of audience.
I was completely alone in life when I was first diagnosed with with acute bipolar 1 disorder leading to delusions and distorted reality. At first I shrugged off the diagnosis as a bad trip or something until my second manic episode back in in 2002. Sure, I dabbled with a few pharma cocktails Geodon, Zyprexa, Lithium, Stratera etc, etc... but eventually decided not right for me, as I could not succeed in my career on the meds.
I currently have 2 children. A 1 year old and a 3 year old. I certainly understand the struggle and have experienced confinement against my will 6 times. Regardless, deciding to have children is the best thing I've done with my life.
Certainly it is a personal decision to have children and not a decision that is right for everyone for many reasons....
However... in the context of this thread.... Cancer, MS, Cystic Fibrosis, Sickle Cell Disease, Heart Disease, obesity, and many other life threatening disorders are genetic. Therefore, by your rational nobody should have children.
The only thing you should fear is fear itself. Disturbing thread.
Actually, I did research it.
According to Medscape: "Remarkably, offspring of a parent with bipolar disorder have a 50% chance of having another major psychiatric disorder" which is exactly what I said.
- Natasha Tracy
until I started having panic attacks at age 26. I knew I was depressed before that time, and had some counseling but no meds when I was in college, unable
to turn in assignments on time and feeling suicidal.
I was diagnosed with borderline traits, at 29, and bipolar at 58. I would never wish this hellish struggle on any innocent child.
But I can understand why a woman could get pregnant and have one child, maybe more, before being diagnosed. Especially in a dismissive or religious family.
However, if you're introspective at all, you have to consider what traits make for a good enough mother, before getting pregnant. Above all, are you patient, and can you regulate your emotions? Will DBT or CBT work for you or not?
I can also understand people fearing there will be no one to look after them, as they age. But the fact that so much of mental illness doesn't respond enough to the meds, and the meds causing all kinds of bad side effects, was the determining factor for me to remain child free.
If a bipolar parent is reading this: please consider not giving birth to kids. Please do not make a child that will hate him/herself. I'd rather not to be born and it takes me huge courage to even continue living. Adoption is great.
And to answer this question: hell no, if I know my child will have bipolar - I already suffer this as the bipolar child. I will not let anyone else suffer the same pain.
To Natasha: I am preparing to have my first child, so excited, whatever will be is already predetermined and I wont blame myself if the coin fell on the "wrong side" according to you...
But why would anybody really choose to have a child in this world with so many possible bad things like accidents, violence, cancer and yes, mental illness?
I do not think by not having a child you are being noble and I will certainly not be handing out any medals of honour in your direction... I rather think you are being afraid, we as Bipolar people can help our children by identifying the problem and learning them how to cope at a young age... Who better to help their children deal with mental illness than we ourselves out of our own experience?
There are much worse things than Bipolar disorder in this world, be grateful...
I think your responses of August 25, 2012 and August 28, 2012 are a little weak. . .because the issue brought up by the other individuals could certainly drawn from your original post.
Because of the way you asked the question (which at first I didn't even realize there had been multiple ways), their comments ARE reasonable. Your argument was that no, you personally would not bring a child into this world knowing he or she would even have a strong likelihood of mental illness, because you would not impose that suffering on someone else.
Well that's fine, but the other person's argument was basically that we choose to inflict suffering upon already living individuals. So should we not have had them? Should we not then, procreate at all? Whose life is worth having? Is mine worth less because I have a plentitude of mental illnesses? Um, no. This is much more than a discussion about bipolar disorder. And there's a huge difference between your two questions: "Would you have a child if you knew they would have bipolar?" VS "If you know that your child would have a mental illness, should you be having children in the first place?" Holy judgemental.
It shouldn't be about what the child might or might not have, but rather how the parent is able to parent.
Having said that, being single and not in a relationship (but absolutely loving children, I used to teach) I've already decided that I won't have my own biological children. Is it because of the likelihood I would pass on my mental illnesses (because I have more to consider than just bipolar)? In part, maybe. But it has more to do with the fact of having to adjust and go off some medications during pregnancy, probably not being able to breastfeed, and the very high risk of postpartum mental illness.
I can just as well adopt children, give a loving home to those who already exist and need a good family. I know one family who has 5 children, all of them adopted, and none of them from the same birth family. It is possible, and that is where I would see myself should motherhood be my vocation.
I don't believe that you can live your life worrying about the what ifs. Having children has been the best thing that has ever happened to me and I think that my ex would say the same thing. A bipolar parent is not ideal but it is not a life sentence. Be aware and informed and the chances for a good life are there.
I'm a male and have bipolar. I've had a lot of adventures in life such as rock/ice climbing, learning to fly, and fishing commercially in AK on the Bering Sea. The problem is all of my activities were done because I figured I could make my death from any of them look like an accident.
Bringing a child here that I knew would suffer the traumas of bipolar; the suicidal depressions, the destructive delusions and hallucinations in mania, the greater chances of substance abuse, etc... would be morally wrong of me.
I think it really depends on what type of bipolar disorder you're dealing with. And if you do have a child who ends up with bp, you have to pass on your knowledge and wisdom and your mental toughness. Bipolar disorder is NOT for the faint of heart, and never should it be regarded as something "easy" to deal with. But a lot of us had kids before we knew we had bipolar disorder, so the question is moot. The problem is, I want my daughter to have children. I want grandchildren. So, my dad had bp, I have bp, my daughter may have bp ... so her children? Oh gosh, it almost seems like a given, her kids will have bp. I don't know. You deal with the hand you're given. I don't know if I'd be able to deal with having a grandchild who tries to commit suicide in the course of having bipolar disorder. The only thing I could do, as I said, is to pass on my wisdom to her, and try to make her a strong person. What else could I do?
It's a tough question to be sure.
A person with Bipolar deserves just as much of a life as anyone else.
AND I fully believe you can live a fulfilled happy life even WITH bipolar.
Not everyone is condemned to a life of psych wards & suicide attempts.
yes there are struggles, yes sometimes its hard, but LIFE Is hard, for EVERYONE.
And EVERYONE deserves a chance in this life.
I had always had panic attacks as a child, which always ended with me vomiting. My family attributed it to my being " shy and fragile".
At 17 I experienced my first bout of serious depression.There was NO reason for feeling the way I did. I had a mom, dad, two little brothers, friends, a boyfriend...a normal teenage life that had come to a screeching halt. After a month of these unknown, scary all consuming feelings, I took a bath with a hair dryer.
My mom made an appointment for me to see a therapist. I was put on an anti depressant and slowly got well.
The next year I married.
From 1986 till 2001 I dealt with my panic attacks with zanax and was put on various antidepressants over the years. I'd slip into a depression, isolate, recover and carry on. It hit every few months, but never did I become as depressed as I had been in 1985.
In 2000, when my baby girl was three months old, my life came to a screeching halt once again. I couldn't eat, hardly moved, that impossible to explain miserly was back. By the time I weighed 86 pounds, my husband put me in the hospital. Major Depression and Anxiety Disorder. The sent me home with that diagnosis and scripts for medication.
In 2001 I had my first manic break. I thought "this must be what happy feels like" as I ran amuck. I couldn't see the destruction my behavior was causing. I crashed. I begged for forgiveness...and then I soared again! We went through this a few times. I was in the hospital again. Same diagnosis. Different meds. Home again, my family attempted an intervention, convinced I was a drug addict. I wasn't doing drugs! I was mad and when mania struck again, I left my husband with divorce papers and our children in his care. I never went back. My kids wouldn't speak to me. The baby was too young. My family disowned me. I was on my own. I lived with two girlfriends that took care of me when I was down and ran amuck with me when I was up. I couldn't hold a job. I put myself in the hospital two more times. Same diagnosis, different meds. It wasn't until I was 39 that I was properly diagnosed Bipolar at a hospital run, free clinic where I went for therapy and to see the psychiatrist that they had assigned to me. The psychiatrist were all interns. It was my third psychiatrist that hit the nail on the head. More med changes and a proper diagnosis. My last bout of severe depression occurred shortly after diagnosis. I was extremely suicidal and had become drug resistant. ECT was their last course of action and in a "whatever" fashion, I signed the papers. Many treatments followed. 3x a week for months.
By the end of my 40 th year, I was on meds that worked. I'm 45 now. Life is nothing like it ever was before. I'm on SSI&MEDICAL. Live alone with my dog and two cats. My family has "forgiven" me for the most part....but my children have suffered the most.
My son tried to commit suicide when he was 17 and again at 22. He was always an introverted kid. Too much stimuli made him anxious. I had put him in therapy, he resented me for it. He and I have gone through periods where we talked and then something makes him mad and he stops talking to me again. The last time he tried to commit suicide he called me first. I called the Psychiatric Emergency Response Team and they arrived at his house with three police cars, ambulance and fire truck. They evaluated him and took him to County Mental Health. That was three years ago. He hasn't spoken to me since because I "betrayed" his trust! He's 26 now.
My 22 year old daughter has gone through spells where she'd speak to me and then not. She is speaking with me now. "We've all had shitty childhoods, I might as well forgive you, you're my mom after all".
My youngest turns 14 soon. I had visitation with her over the years. I wasn't always real consistent, but we've built a relationship that we both value and talk or text a lot. Last year she started cutting. She shared it with me. We talked a lot. I told her Dad and he flipped out! "You're going to be just like your mother"! She hasn't cut since. She's afraid to get caught. Her dad won't put her in therapy because that's all "bullshit".
I love all three of my children in three very different ways. I love all three more than anybody else in my life.
It's hard to imagine life without them. I live with a tremendous amount of guilt for the circumstances they have had to grow up under, but if you believe we are all born for a reason, then I suppose there are lessons they must be here to learn.... I didn't know any better to make an educated decision about having children.
Do I worry about their mental health? Oh he'll ya. I've seen my son suffer and I know he has a long battle ahead of him. If he's NOT bipolar, I'd be shocked. I wish I could make it all better, save him from those dark places, but I can't. And that sucks.
I'm not too worried about my 22 yr old daughter. She's always had the world by the tail! Her self confidence and comfort with who she is amazes and pleases me!
My baby? I worry. She is open enough with me and has grown up knowing what bipolar disorder is all about so she's pretty self aware. She's aware enough to ask for help. Open enough to share her pain.
If I could make that decision now, at this point in my life? No way would I have children. This sort of misery I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy, especially my children.
I didn't learn about my family history of mental illness until my son had been diagnosed. I remembered a conversation I had with my mom before I knew I was pregnant (turns out I was pregnant at that conversation). She made some comment that not everyone needed to have kids, some were better off without and maybe I should reconsider wanting a family. I remember being so hurt and offended since she'd known I wanted kids ever since I was a little girl. I look back and realize she was trying to say something. I used to get angry that she couldn't have been honest with me, been more direct with what she was saying.
Having said all that, if I hadn't had my children, I would not have taken the journey I have. While I definitely have had my share of struggles and battles (most currently last night), I have taken some jobs I never would have. And now I have a highly rewarding job of helping other parents. I have met some amazing people along my journey and many of them have become friends.
My son still struggles with his issues, but he is also a bright, funny, likeable young man. He has taught me so much on our journey, and I know I will continue to learn. He is a part of me and I love him no matter what.
No, that's not the question I'm asking. In fact, I specifically say that in the article. I specifically say that I'm not suggesting that people aren't lovable or don't deserve to be here.
Asking if someone would have a child under a specific set of circumstances is a far cry from asking whether a person who is alive should be alive.
I was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder about 45 years ago..My life has been suffering and dillusions ever since.I had my son at 20 with my heroin addicted husband..he was raised mainly by my parents..He turned out to be an amazing person with a business known around the world.No bipolar disorder..but my grand-daughter 10 now has ADHD.I am terified she will be bi-polar..so the fear is always there..but I can't imagine my life without my son'
Now I am pregnant & can finally say that, despite still believing in my original sentiment, I know I have more Love & stronger values to share than lots of so called 'parents' might. Self awareness goes along way, especially with my bipolar1 & what with was an almost successful suicide attempt, at least for a couple of hours before months, behind me.
My child will know & feel that it is loved & supported.
Is it China where individuals with mental health issue's are forced to abort a pregnancy? Great minds have been born of bipolar; Kay Redfield Jamison has listed many such individuals in her writings & she too has bipolar1. Jamison is also one of the leading, expert, psychologist experts on bipolar disorder. She is world renowned.
I understand your choices as individuals, but with any life comes responsibility & the fact that parents are forcing babies into an existence which might, one way or another, kill them.
Some of those parents, however, are awful.
I would much rather have mentally ill parents than awful ones and the two, it must be said, do NOT necessarily go hand in hand.
Elisabeth, august the 26th, I shake your hand and lets just think positive thoughts for these individuals and for a day when they might question their earlier choices...
B. As my wonderful husband once told me ...if it wasn't for people like us who think differently there would be no inventors, artists, mad scientists, etc., and the world would be a lot worse place.
So the answer is probably ....YES!
Just because you have suffered so badly, every day, doesn't mean that your child will suffer in the same way. It is not a sentence for torture.
To be honest, I don't believe he and I have a "normal" relationship, and there are a LOT of things I have to overlook in order to keep this marriage going. Bipolar is a very selfish, and at times dishonest, disorder. Although I am understanding of that now I'm not sure I would have chosen this if I wasn't already committed to my husband for 12 years before we found out about his illness. Up until now I've had times I just thought he was a major jerk, and I thought many times about leaving. I know it kills my husband to know that his illness has caused me such pain. I don't that I would expect another person to put themselves through the things I've been through to stay with my children if they do wind up having bipolar disorder in the future.
Therefore, I would not have a child if I had the knowledge that he or she would develop bipolar disorder. It hurts too many people, and that would just seem selfish to me.
"Enduring hardship" is not all the same. People suffering every day is not the same thing as people who undergo their parent's divorce and it's insulting you would equate the two. I have been through both and they do not compare on any level.
While bipolar disorder is different for different people, for many it's a life-long crippling disability and in some cases it takes away almost everything a person has. It is not to be trifled about. Now, whether, you, personally, think having a child who would be in the situation is reasonable, is up to you, but it is no small amount of suffering to be sure.
And no, this isn't a "dangerous" discussion - it's a rational one. People can come down on either side of the argument but it's not about who is "deserving" of life it's deciding what is the best decision of you and your unborn child given a theoretical situation.
And it's a very real discussion people have every day in their real lives when facing the possibility of having children.
- Natasha Tracy
Whether or not to have and parent a child is a personal decision and, although we have freedom of speech, a rather dangerous discussion. It is reminscent of conversations that occurred during the WW II era. Who is deserving of life?