Would You Have a Child If You Knew They Would Have Bipolar?

Friday, August 24 2012 Natasha Tracy

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.

Bipolar Children

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.

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Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar BurbleTwitterGoogle+ and Facebook.

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Would You Have a Child If You Knew They Would Have Bipolar?

mef123
says:
August, 24 2012 at 8:14 am

That's a hard question. I have a 14 year old son and wouldn't trade him in for anything. I had him before I was diagnosed. He does have adhd and social anxiety disorder. I never had anymore because I felt I couldn't handle anymore. I think I knew that something was wrong. I would not have any children knowing that I have bipolar. Not only is their chance of having a mental illness higher but I can't take care of another child correctly. I feel I'm not taking care of my son right. But that's another story. I would not trade him in for anything.

Michele

Annie
says:
August, 24 2012 at 8:27 am

I agree. I am now in my mid 40's and made the decision in my 20's that I wasn't going to bring a child into this crazy messed up life that I am living. Am I glad to be here today? Yes! but I don't want to pass this on to another human being especially someone that I will love unconditionally. My biological mother had bipolar, maybe that's why she gave me up for adoption. I know the likelyhood of having a child with bipolar is too great for chance. One I am not willing to take.

Deb
says:
August, 24 2012 at 8:54 am

I had to make that decision 10 years ago because I have scoliosis, had surgery at 13 that fused my vertebrae from T3-L4, and know I live with increasing chronic pain. Every year there is something else that pain prevents me from doing. So, I made the decision not to roll the dice. I got my tubes tied rather than my husband getting a vasectomy, since it was my genes that I didn't feel right about passing on.

Fast forward to 2010. I'm diagnosed with bipolar. Now there's another reason that I wouldn't want to roll the genetic dice for children, never mind that I've now had a hysterectomy too.
My husband and I can't think of a good reason for US to rear children. If that changes, or our biological clocks click in (mine sort of has...), we can adopt, something we've talked about since we dated.
I'm not sure I'd make a good parent at all as a person with bipolar. But maybe with a few more years of stability I would.

FNCrazy
says:
August, 24 2012 at 10:59 am

That's a hard question. I didn't know I had it when I had my son. The thought of not having him is unfathomable. I guess I would hope that in the 15-20 years he'd have to grow up, there would be advances to make BP more tolerable.

In reality though, if I *knew* a child would have it, I probably wouldn't.

Stacey
says:
August, 24 2012 at 11:01 am

If I knew for certain, then no, I would not. I WILL say that knowing now what my mother did not know when I was a child makes a HUGE difference. I know what to watch for. I know when to seek help. I am able to identify the behaviors and watch for triggers...so if one of my children DOES end up with the illness, they won't suffer as long as I did before being treated. Recovery/Living Healthily with bipolar disorder involves learning a new way of thinking and living...not just medication. So, I am doing my best to raise them with those skills.

Catherine
says:
August, 24 2012 at 11:17 am

Ooooh tricky subject indeed.
It's not really a fair question to ask, since you can never actually know whether your child will certainly have bipolar disorder; there are so many factors to take into account. It's a matter of probability.
I took part in a pilot scheme involving genetic counselling for bipolar disorder. This is now a unique service that is available here in British Columbia.
I have 2 children and Bipolar I. I wasn't trying to decide whether to have them, since I was diagnosed after that, but rather to see what their chances were. I can't explain to you how the process works exactly, but it does involve questions and compiling more of your family history than just your parents. It turned out that my children have a very low chance of getting BD, although they have a slightly increased risk of depression in later life.
If I was choosing whether to have children, I'd start with how capable I felt at the time. If I was taking medications at the time I'd consider the consequences of having to stop taking them for a while. I'd also like to get more information on what their chances would be.
Thanks for getting the conversation started Natasha, I'm interested to see what other opinions there are on this subject.
Further information about genetic counselling can be found here:
http://www.crestbd.ca/2012/05/08/new-bc-based-genetic-counseling-servic…

Joseph M. Bowers
says:
August, 24 2012 at 1:36 pm

I am 65 and have been diagnosted schizophrenic. My mother also was institutionalized twice. At the time I had to decide, I had been institutionalized twice. There was at that time uncertaintanty about how important genetics was. Obviously I had to realize I could very well pass on my curse. Partly because I was also illegitimate and wanted a family I truly belonged to completely, because my mother seemed to have been effectively treated and because I was doing well at the time; I became a father. I have three children, two over thirty and one over twenty and none of them have had any trouble so far. Had I known they would inherit mental illness at that time I probably would have had children anyway believing that they could and would be effectively treated and have decent lives. Now after more than thirty years of deinstitutionalization and insisitence on civil liberties even for people in no condition to make sound, rational decisions due to psychosis, my decision would be harder and probably different. This is because the odds that they would recieve the treatment they needed are much worse now than they were for my mother and I in the fifties and sixties.

cindyaka
says:
August, 24 2012 at 4:27 pm

I'm bipolar and my husband has major depression. We have been blessed with three boys,all born before either of us was diagnosed. We would have still had children anyways. So far, none of them have developed any symptoms of a mental illness. They are in their mid to late 20's. It really is a dice roll when it comes to genetics and inheritance.

AJ French
says:
August, 25 2012 at 12:18 am

Well, where do we draw the line? Since persons with bipolar endure hardship, the conclusion (you've given) is we should spare the non-existant "child" the suffering. What about children who will suffer from divorce? Divorce is not predictable, but statistically more likely than having bipolar. Should we not have children to spare "them" the pain of divorce?

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?

Sarah
says:
August, 25 2012 at 4:35 am

absolutely I would have this child. we all suffer. and, if you had prior knowledge of impending bipolar disorder, it is going to be much easier to manage, and to prevent some of the issues we bipolars face.

Natasha Tracy
says:
August, 25 2012 at 5:26 am

AJ French,

"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

Paul Winkler
says:
August, 25 2012 at 10:43 am

Very interesting post. My three kids were born decades before I was diagnosed bipolar and PTSD. Although I had suspected there was something "different" about me since I was a kid myself, it never crossed my mind there was something to be inherited. It's only with hindsight that I realise one side of my family has had mental problems for generations. Unfortunately, all three of my kids have some psych troubles themselves; one has 4 or 5 diagnoses. When you roll a die, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. I have no idea what I would do if I had the choice of fathering kids, knowing what I know now.

Bill Bale
says:
August, 25 2012 at 11:09 am

I had three children before I knew I was bipolar, and they are in their thirties now. No bipolar or depression, thank God. To have a child live any part of the horrible life I had would be a terrible thing to do. So when the woman I was seeing mentioned having kids, and she has bipolar too, I told her I'd have a vasectomy first. Now a study is out (Nature mag.) about older men causing children to be born with autism or schitzophrenia, and I will have that done. I'm a virile 59.

Karen
says:
August, 25 2012 at 12:07 pm

Wow, what a question! I have to be honest and say that my first response would be no, I would never take that chance. Then again, I wouldn't have my two beautiful children (one that I am concerned about for her future). We found out my husband has bipolar disorder when our girls were 9 and 11 years old, less than six months ago. I hope they do not ever have to suffer the way he has.

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.

Sarah
says:
August, 25 2012 at 10:11 pm

In some parts of India a girl child is less than a boy child. Defective, if you like. For this reason it is illegal for the doctor to tell the parents the sex of the baby, or else the child would be aborted in case of being a girl. Now this seems like an extreme example to someone outside the culture, and you would argue, of course this girl deserves a chance of life, just as much as a boy. It has nothing to do with mental illness, that's totally different, you would say. I want to know, how, exactly is it different? The girl child, and her family, suffer because of her female condition, in that culture. And bipolars suffer as much because of the culture we are in, as from the illness itself. The future looks bright for bipolars. Better drugs are being developed all the time, and community understanding is improving, slowly. Why doesn't a bipolar child deserve a chance at life? I like to think that, overall my genes are superior to some of the population. But we all have some defects.

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.

Elizabeth
says:
August, 26 2012 at 5:57 am

A. If I'd known beforehand that both my parents were and I am (and I'm not sure how many of my 4 siblings!) I might have thought about the subject very briefly.
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!

Emily
says:
August, 26 2012 at 1:06 pm

I made the decision at some point that I was not well enough to be a mother, nor could I see myself coming off of meds for a pregnancy. I didn't find the right man either, but wasn't looking for "father material." That said, some of the genes that can set us up for mental illness can probably also have good benefits, too, which is why evolution let them stick around. Wouldn't it have been a great thing if George Bush was a little more negative and realized we could never win the wars in Iraq and Afghanastan before we went in? If we breed out mental illness, we might find that we breed out many exceptional people. And on a personal note- even though I have exquisitely painful depressions in which I have tried to kill myself, that while I have wanted to die, I'm not sure that I can truly say that I wish I had never existed. At least there was a me. If I were to kill myself, my choice. But at least I had a choice, a chance. The babies that I am not having, will have no choice at all.

Marri Lefaye
says:
August, 26 2012 at 11:25 pm

I always doubted that I would have children, in fact I vowed that I would not. I did not do this because of any risk of continuing the bipolar gene [as it is in each generation], but because the world can be such a trying place in which to exist.

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...

lee
says:
August, 27 2012 at 8:38 am

What a interestng question.
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'

Monica
says:
August, 27 2012 at 11:26 am

Hello! I loved this article! Just had a discussion with my cousin about this. I really desperately want to have kids. I've wanted kids since 18. I'm now 25 and the desire has not gotten smaller but a bigger desire. Everyday I think about having children. I believe that's my reason on earth is to give life. I was just diagnosed last March and I struggle constantly with what's going on in my own head day to day. I don't think its selfish. I mean you don't see people with cancer encouraging others not to conceive?! You don't see other alcoholics or drug addicts telling others not to conceive?! So, why should not have an equal opportunity to have children as well because i have anxiety, adhd, and bipolar and depression. I hate hearing the words "You Cant do it too" it makes me want to do it more. Its hell being me. I constantly wonder whether my partner will try and take my kids and call me unfit because of my depression and mood swings. Constantly concerned about what pregnancy will do to my body and brain. BUT,I want to have children. I too deserve it too. I know the chances of my child having bipolar goes up because I have it too. I guess that since I have it and my twin sister has bipolar my mom had depression and bipolar disorder. I'am constantly worried because of all the anxiety. That's why we have support groups but that doesn't take away the worries of postpartum depression. The most exciting thought I have is seeing my baby that I made grow and develop. I constantly think how precious! I will do all in my power to make sure that my baby/child develops as healthy as possible. I want to be the best mom out there. I guess part of my desire besides hormonal is because I don't know my real parents. I was adopted at 10months so I don't know the whole story just bits and pieces but I know in my heart I want my own child. I don't want my children to struggle like there mommy. I want them to be proud of me and I want them to be strong individually. There are a couple things I have to do first before I produce. 1 work on myself inside and out. 2. love myself some more. 3. Don't be afraid of doing parenthood on my own. I'm still a good mom even if I do it alone(terrified of becoming a single, unmarried mom, I was raised like that I really needed Dad there.!) 4. I can do this! 5. Get myself support. 5. Find a great, supportive, attentive, respectful, and great husband/father. 6. Stop thinking about babies now and focus on getting finances, house, and steps to starting a great career! I have a lot of work to do. I have to focus on getting "babies" off my brain. darn hormones...... This year I'm doing community service so I can't afford to make babies now.... Or for like the next couple years. But, all and all yes I still have a strong desire to have children and no I don't think its selfish knowing I have a mental illness

Julie
says:
August, 27 2012 at 6:43 pm

Its interesting that you post this article today. My friend and I were just having "the biological clock talk" yesterday. I am 33 years old and have no children and have Borderline Personality Disorder. I have Borderline for 2 reasons, 1 because I was genetically predisposed because my biological mother is a Paranoid Schizophrenic and 2 because she raised me while not on medication until I was taken away at age 4. I would love to have children but many things come in to play for that to happen. I would have to stop taking all my medications for at least one month before my imaginary husband and I even began trying. No medications during pregnancy or for how ever long I choose to breast feed. That means my imaginary husband would need to be a very understanding man because not only would I not be medicated but I would be hormonal as well. And just to be clear I am saying "imaginary husband" because I am not married; I do not see things. LOL. So lets say all that goes as planned and I nor my imaginary husband go off the deep end. Now we have a baby. Borderlines have emotional issues; that's the easiest way to sum it up. If we are angry we are FURIOUS. If we are sad, THE SKY IS FALLING. So lets stay on point here and remain positive; we have a baby. Ten toes, ten fingers, head full of hair and all over gorgeous. I breast feed and all is well. Now its back to medications which can take 2-4 weeks to be fully back functioning 100% into my system again and sometimes those 2-4 weeks are not fun. So do we hire a Douala to help out? Now the burning question that we all try to avoid... My child, no matter what I do will be genetically predisposed to a mental illness. Most likely Bipolar or Borderline or if I am lucky something simple like Generalized Anxiety. That is a hard question to answer for a couple different reasons one of which is very selfish. Am I capable even with the help of an imaginary husband of raising a child with mental problems? I need to be able to put my health first. The second reason is quite frankly; knowing that there is a chance even a small one is it fair to bring a child into the world to go through the pain I suffer daily?

BohemianBlondeLife
says:
August, 28 2012 at 1:35 am

The question you are really asking some of us is "do you wish you had not been born" and I can say no, i am glad i was born. My mother has bipolar ii and I was recently diagnosed bipolar ii. my brother does not have it. i have an amazing husband, a great job, and will be on medicine for life. do i wish my life was not difficult sometimes, absolutely. but would i wish my parents had chosen to adopt instead of having me, nope. i am glad i am here. and i will have children and be open and honest with them about my bipolar when they are old enough because every person has their own battle. this is just my "thing" i have to deal with. my cross to bear.

Monique
says:
August, 28 2012 at 6:27 am

I had my son at 23, before I ever received a diagnosis. We have since both been diagnosed as bipolar. I do not plan on ever having more biological children. I would consider adoption as a way of expanding my family, if I ever felt the need to have more children. Watching my son struggle, and having my own challenges, it would be incredibly unfair for me to reproduce my genetics again.

Natasha Tracy
says:
August, 28 2012 at 6:57 am

Hi BohemianBlondeLife,

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.

- Natasha

KimNichelle
says:
August, 28 2012 at 7:09 am

I don't think I can honestly answer this question. I know I would've have thought harder about it. I never once considered it. I would have educated myself and researched.
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.

Michelle
says:
August, 28 2012 at 7:36 am

I had my children when I was in denial over my bi-polar situation. I had a psychotic break just before my eldest was born, and have struggled ever since. And my two children, 9 and 6, both have bi-polar. We didn't get help for them until she was in the second grade and he in preschool. Needless to say, my daughter is angry to have to be alive, and this while medicated and getting treatment. As soon as I realized what I'd put them into, I got my tubes tied. No accidentally-conceived children to burden with this. I adore my two children, very much. I also cannot endure watching them both hate life as vehemently as they do.

Are People Born with Bipolar Disorder? | Bipolar Burble Blog | Natasha Tracy
says:
August, 28 2012 at 9:27 am

[...] of all those above people, only about 0.2-0.4% of children have bipolar disorder so most of those people won’t develop bipolar disorder until they are adults (although many show [...]

randall ross
says:
August, 29 2012 at 7:56 am

i have had a problem with bipolar 1 since birth they said i started showing signs at 3 years of age they took me to a diagnostic center at 5 were they were told there was something wrong but tere was nothing they could do so i went to counseers and mental hospitals i kindof lost track of how many times and how long i would go2 weeks with no sleep and then suffur along bought of depresion with was early 70s and late 60 after i finaly got out school of drove trucks over the road where staying for long period of time helped i did that the hullucinasions were kinda of hard to deal with i did that kind of for 13 yrs up until i had a phsicotic break and went to a mental hospital and the doctors said i could not drive anymore i got pumped full of shycotropics and mood stabillysers i feel beter now . iwas abelle to get disability and medicare wich has helped i have been in and out of mental hospitils be cause my meds stop working they put me on something else a year or2 later it stares over and im backagain

randall ross
says:
August, 29 2012 at 4:22 pm

both my are mentally ill one lives in group home the lives with her boyfrind going to college with help from ssi

Lisa Rogers
says:
September, 26 2012 at 8:07 am

I had my first manic break at 34. I was already the mother of a 15 yr old son, 11 yr old daughter and a 2 yr old daughter. (My 2 yr old was a huge surprise).
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.

Terea
says:
November, 25 2012 at 10:20 am

Are you kidding me? My 7 year old son is bipolar and he is the most brilliant, coolest kid I know! He constantly amazes everyone around him with his creativity and his unique approach to life. Sometimes I think he is like having several kids in one, but I think the rewards for being his mother are also multiplied. My brother and sister are also bipolar and they both lead successful lives. As a family we deal with some problems caused by the mental illness, but who doesn't have problems!?

Terea
says:
November, 25 2012 at 10:25 am

I want to add that no parent actually knows what they are going to get when they decide to have a child. I do not have bipolar disorder, but my child does. My sister has 4 children and so far none of them show signs of bipolar disorder, but she is bipolar. Even if you are perfectly healthy both mentally and physically, you could have a child with a genetic disorder or illness. Parents need to accept their children for who they are, and enter into parenthood prepared to love their imperfect children.

Sarah
says:
November, 26 2012 at 5:53 am

Thanks Terea, may I second that sentiment...

F
says:
December, 7 2012 at 3:08 pm

I'm bipolar. If I knew for sure my child would be bipolar, I would keep it. I would be far more likely to abort a non-bipolar child because the downside of not being bipolar is that non-bipolar people aren't as smart or creative (at ALL) and have a very little emotional range. THAT is a wasted life.

Aly
says:
January, 5 2013 at 8:25 am

I absolutely would have a child if I knew it was going to be bipolar. I think it is extremely dangerous for you to imply that EVERYONE suffers the same.

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.

EVERYONE.

cmM
says:
December, 14 2013 at 12:58 pm

I read the title of this article, and I thought, "of course I would have a child, even if s/he had a chance of becoming bipolar." And then the next second I thought of my suicidal ideations and multiple suicide attempts, and thought better of it. But I do have a child, who is 26 years old now, and she does seem to have symptoms or tell-tale signs of bipolar disorder. She has said, "I like being this way, I like bipolar disorder, if I have it." She will have my knowledge of medications to work with, and my roll-with-it attitude about my bipolar mood swings ... I have a 24- to 26- day depression to mania cycle, so my moods don't last very long. My depressions are mainly long days in bed sleeping, and my manias last for a few days. I'm lucky that way, I always have the knowledge that no one mood is going to last for a long time. I also hope, that if my daughter does sink into a suicidal depression, she won't actually try to commit suicide; she can always talk to me. In any case, her bipolar cycle, if that's what it is, is very similar to mine. Her moods pass quickly, and her depressions cause long days sleeping in bed. Medication doesn't really help me; my pdoc told me explicitly that medications seem to make my cycles much worse. So I don't know, it's possible my daughter has inherited this trait as well.

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.

Kelley
says:
May, 19 2014 at 3:35 pm

If I knew my child would have severe bipolar, in my opinion, it would be cruel to bring that child here, and this with regard to today's medications.

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.

Jill Neil
says:
June, 19 2014 at 9:12 pm

My bipolar husband has been gone for nearly a year. We were together for 24years and had 4 children together. I do worry about them being bipolar but would not change having them. They are the reason that I keep going despite the hurt that has been inflicted on all of us. I am very aware of the symptoms of bipolar and hope that I will recognise and be able to help if they need. As for my ex husband I have cut all contact with him. My kids still see him at times but he is not really part of their lives which makes me sad for them.
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.

Julia
says:
June, 20 2014 at 12:59 pm

Some good points Jill. As for me personally, the frame of the question could substitute any illness, and is such that I would have to weigh the pros and the cons. And a life of their suffering, in and of itself, is not reason enough for me to not have children. Because that's not the reason for existence. We all have suffering; it IS a part of life--so I wouldn't want to deny life to someone because I didn't want them to suffer. None of us want to suffer, but we do and we can't eliminate, try as we might.

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.

Julia
says:
June, 20 2014 at 1:21 pm

Natasha,
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.

Tiaan
says:
September, 10 2014 at 3:04 am

To Julia: what a brilliant post!!!

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...

T-Tree
says:
October, 6 2014 at 9:30 pm

Hi. My fiancee has bipolar and I have a history of depression and anxiety. My mother has paranoid schizophrenia. My father was abusive. The reason why we don't want children is because we don't think we would be able to cope and yes, naturally there is a fear that our child or children will have mental health issues. We have suffered so terribly ourselves that although the idea of having children is wonderful, we can not imagine ourselves being strong enough to cope with the stresses and strains of bringing up a family. I don't have a maternal instinct as yet and perhaps that is because of all of the mental and emotional abuse I have endured over the years. I do wonder if it will ever kick in.. I'm in my early thirties and feel the pressure of having children. I empathise with Natasha - she didn't mean to cause offence I don't think. I admire those of you who have raised children or want children and in a way I probably envy you a little. There are some of us who don't feel we are strong enough mentally or emotionally to raise them, even though a small part of us wants to. If I had a healthy maternal instinct, perhaps that would change my mind completely.

Courtney
says:
October, 7 2014 at 8:24 am

In my opinion only it is morally wrong to bring a child into this world if either potential parent has mental health issues. It is unfair to the unborn child as they might develop a mental illness that is going to destroy their life anyway no matter what drugsand treatments are available and be a burden to their families (unwittingly). Don't risk it - it isn't worth it.

Robyn
says:
November, 4 2014 at 3:42 pm

To answer this question is a yes and a no. I got pregnant of course not planned and that was a deciding factor on us getting married. If I knew that my now ex was bipolar and knew the information about it thatI know now I would have not married him therefore I would not have had my other two children. Bipolar disorder is selfish and dangerous and I would not willing bring more individuals into society that cannot get proper care because we are more concern about rights than treatment. My girls all take medication and are in their early twenties and I worry everyday about when they decide to not take them anymore. All these years we have watched from a distance their father go in and out of jail, suffer drug problems become homeless and not interact with his kids, he has become a burden on society costing the courts money, his parents money and it will never get better. Sadly bipolar disorder is high ignored and people that suffer from it will never be properly treated in my opinion. I am not saying they aren't given meds and such but society likes to act as if it is not a mental illness and it is.

C
says:
February, 16 2015 at 4:47 am

My father has bipolar disorder and well, here I am. I have bipolar too. His bipolar makes his actions abusive, and I lived a terrible youth. I struggle between hating my life, and I sometimes still hate them for giving birth to me.

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.

Shaznam
says:
May, 6 2015 at 10:15 am

I came here looking for answers, I'm trying to decide whether I should have children. I am bipolar and my husband is schizophrenic, but instead of finding a supportive community of like minded people with similar life experiences, I found a group of people that seem to think very little of themselves. Life is tough as a sufferer of any form of mental illness, but my husband and I are loving people, slowly coming to grips with a new way of life. I am not inferior, and I refuse to let anyone tell me I am. I get enough judgement and stigma from "normal" people, i really don't need to get it from bp's too. You guys really need to accept your lot in life and celebrate your beautiful, chaotic, frightening uniqueness. We are not less than, we are more. For we battle everyday, and every night we are the victors. I am proud to be what I am. I am happy to tell my story, because after all is said and done, I have survived.

cerenatee
says:
October, 3 2015 at 6:09 pm

It seems that everyone is coming from their own experiences and forgetting that bipolar runs a spectrum. If your disorder is mild, you're like "oh, they can just treat it with medication and life will be roses." If you bipolar is extreme and medication doesn't stabilize it, then you're like "heck no, this is hell on earth and I wouldn't want my worst enemy to suffer like this." My bipolar isn't extreme but my answer is still no, if I knew my child would be bipolar, I wouldn't have him/her. Everyone struggles but there's no excuse for knowingly causing my child to struggle. That would be like dying a weight around his leg when he's trying to walk. Yes, it's normal for children to fall but a parent shouldn't knowingly make them fall. Knowingly saddling my child with a mental disorder is knowingly setting them up for a lifetime of struggle that I could have prevented, and as a mother, it's my job to not hurt my child hoping that doctors and medication can reduce the harm I cause. That's how I feel about the issue. Others feel different and I'll let the result of their children's lives be their judge.

Roxanne Gilman
says:
October, 7 2015 at 12:32 pm

I wasn't diagnosed with major depression, and GAD--general anxiety disorder,
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.

Suzy
says:
November, 29 2015 at 7:38 am

I'm bipolar II, and my maternal urge drives me nuts (or nuttier). My immutable decision to not have children was made with prolonged consideration and a lot of self reflection. Ultimately, unselfishness is the most significant reason. I'm medicated and have been so with great discipline and even still have "flare-ups". It is in those moments that I cease being an useful person. I'm such a mess that my husband has to help me find my sanity. I will not stop taking my medication because I have chosen not to risk any birth defects due to the medication and severe depression. Is it fair to ask my husband to become my caretaker, and my child's only parent? Although I can't with any certainty predict my future, postpartum depression is very real. Insomnia makes things worse for us and it is inevitable. My parents and my siblings would feel compelled to help us deal with my absence. I refuse to knowingly become a burden. It possible that my family with watch us struggle and suffer for the rest of my life. They will pity us. I'll be the furthest thing from a good wife, good daughter, good sister, and most significantly, a good mother. I refuse to any of those--let alone all of them.

Brad
says:
January, 7 2016 at 2:38 pm

If 1 parent has bipolar disorder his or her child has a 10% chance (give or take) of developing bipolar disorder. With 2 parents the odds increase substantially. Google 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.

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