Can you take lithium while pregnant?

Are you pregnant? Do you also suffer from bipolar disorder and depend on lithium to help stabilize your mood? If so, then the question that must be keeping you up at night is: can I continue taking lithium while pregnant?

Well, dear reader, worry no more! In this comprehensive guide, we will explore all the ins and outs of using lithium during pregnancy. From its potential risks to its benefits, we’ve got it all covered!

What is Lithium?

Before diving into whether or not it’s safe to take lithium during pregnancy, let us begin by understanding what exactly this drug is.

Lithium is an element in the periodic table with atomic number 3. It has been used for decades as a standard treatment for bipolar disorder (also known as manic-depressive illness), which affects approximately 2.6% of adults worldwide.

The way lithium works remains largely unknown; however, scientists believe that it influences certain neurotransmitters in the brain responsible for regulating moods such as dopamine and serotonin.

The Pros and Cons of Taking Lithium During Pregnancy

Now for the big question – what are the potential risks and benefits associated with continuing to use lithium while pregnant?
Let’s weigh them both


  • For women who rely on medication to manage their symptoms before getting pregnant, stopping medication abruptly could have negative effects on their mental state (such as developing depression).
  • Some studies have suggested that there may be fewer birth defects observed among babies born to mothers on stable doses of lithium than those whose doses were reduced or stopped altogether.
  • There are ongoing research efforts suggesting that children born outside of episodes have better outcomes when compared with childrenborn after depressive or mania episodes


Of course – everything comes at a cost! Here are some important cons related to using lithiumpregnancy :

Risk for Birth Defects

One of the main fears associated with taking lithium during pregnancy is its potentialto affect fetal development negatively. Some statistics reportedly suggest that infants born to women who take lithium during the first trimester of pregnancy are anywhere from 2-5 times more likely to have congenital cardiac malformations than babies born to mothers not on any medication at all.

Risk for Neonatal Toxicity

Another equally significant concern is over exposure of the newborn baby’s system tonoticeable levels of Li+ given transplacental transfer or through breastfeeding. This could potentially cause a dangerous condition called neonatal toxicity, which can lead to serious consequences for both mother and baby if untreated.

Lithium Use During Each Trimester

A woman planning on getting pregnant should immediately schedule an appointmentwith their doctor when planning to get pregnant so as always mention lithium use .It can be particularly challenging managing medicationswhen pregnant especially thosefor lifelong conditions like bipolar disorder. Treatment options had better be addressed regarding each stage of gestation

First Trimester:

As we mentioned earlier, there’s higher chance giving birth defect in early pregnancies while taking lithium.Needless to say it’s recommended however,lithiumprescribing still needs careful evaluation by expert obstetricians .

Risk factors stratified among existing studies will play crucial rolestowards optimal choice and decision.Among different riskfactors weight gain seems particularly relatedto heart morphology.

The American College Obstetrics-Gynecology recently updated guidancebased on increasing dataon safety & monitoring protocols emphasized:

1) Individualization: Prescribers and patients must individually weigh risks vs benefits based oncumulative evidence.

2) Screening: Advanced level ultrasounds between weeks14-20 for very precise anatomy search

3) Monitoring : Serious tests suchas Electrocardiogram (EKG),nerve conduction test (EMG),and liver function test (LFTs) and close follow-up particularly for thyroid function which could be negatively impacted

Second Trimester :

Assuming the pregnancy is uneventful till now, lithium doses can be adjusted-based on symptoms severity , tolerability,and blood levels .

Again – it’s important to monitor closelyfor any adverse effects in both child & mother.

According to findings by the 2018 MOCHA report,the risk factors reduce comparatively throughout pregnancy.For example, Li+ is more prone to cause heart anomalies if taken duringorganogenesis (fetal-heart development period), but fetal brain development occurs mostly after this phase. Hence that could potentially render less risks of exposure-induced cognitive/atomic disabilities.

The Bottom Line: Can You Take Lithium While Pregnant?

The answer comes down- not surprisingly -to what works best based on individual circumstances.

If you have bipolar disorder and are considering getting pregnant,it’s essential firstto speak with your doctor about whether or not lithium stays safe management option given potential benefits and risks.Additional nonpharmacological options such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, support groupsetc.. should also be further discussed before making a decision.

It’s worth mentioning however,that despite some studies finding increased risk of defects among women using lithiumpregnancy – there’ noneedtodepresstoo much.Clearance from many drugs including lithium improved over time .Moreover stabilizing comorbidities is vital before giving birth(especially perinatal depression)which carries greater health-threat comparedwith mood-stabilized infant being born.

So dear reader,don’t fret too much! By following professional adviceand recommendations,you can make the best decision for yourselfand conduct safe medical choices whilebringing another little life into this world!

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