Explains how lithium and other mood stabilising drugs work, how they might help you, whether to take them if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, and what alternative treatments are available.
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you may want to think about how different mood stabilisers can affect you and your baby. You may also want to think about this if you might get pregnant in the future.
This page covers:
Mood stabilising drugs may carry risks of harm to your baby. You might need to think about your options if you take mood stabilisers and:
If you become pregnant, you will probably be asked to consider one of these options:
You will need to think about any possible risks to your baby from continuing with your medication. But also consider any possible harm from changing or coming off your medication.
Being pregnant can sometimes feel like you’re giving up control of your own body. This can be stressful, but there are lots of positive steps you can take:
The risks to your baby with taking lithium during pregnancy are:
The Royal College of Psychiatrists has more information about taking lithium while pregnant or breastfeeding.
If you decide it's best to continue with your lithium treatment, you and your doctor should take these steps to manage the risks:
Anticonvulsant mood stabilisers carry the following risks to your baby:
Each individual anticonvulsant drug also has its own risks. These risks are outlined below:
Valproate carries the highest risk of danger to your baby out of all mood stabilisers. It can cause a number of different defects and symptoms in your baby. Together, these are known as 'foetal valproate syndrome'. They include:
The regulators of this medicine say that you should not take valproate if you are pregnant.
They also say you should not be prescribed valproate if you are able to become pregnant, unless you have a pregnancy prevention programme in place. See our page on valproate for more information about this.
If you are prescribed valproate, you should receive a patient booklet and patient alert card with your prescription. These will give you more information about the risks of taking valproate.
There is evidence that taking carbamazepine during the first three months of pregnancy increases the risk of your baby developing:
Evidence on the safety of taking lamotrigine while pregnant is mixed. The NHS has information on taking lamotrigine while pregnant or breastfeeding.
"[While] I was on Epilim (sodium valproate)… I had a child born with various defects and she also has learning difficulties and GDD [global developmental delay] due to this drug. I was not told of the severe effects it can cause."
See our page on the risks of taking antipsychotics during pregnancy. This includes information on the antipsychotics that you may be offered as mood stabilisers.
Coming to a decision you feel comfortable with about what's right for you and your baby can be difficult. It's understandable if you feel conflicted or unsure about what to do.
As well as talking to your doctor or a psychiatrist, you might find these support options helpful:
You might also find it helpful to read our pages on parenting with a mental health problem. These pages include information on taking care of yourself, looking after your children, and other kinds of support available to parents.
This information was published in June 2020. We will revise it in 2023.
References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.