Prophylactic treatment of bipolar disorder in pregnancy and breastfeeding: focus on emerging mood stabilizers


  • The author of this paper does not have any commercial associations that might pose a conflict of interest in connection with this manuscript.

Dr Salvatore Gentile, Department of Mental Health ASL Salerno 1, Head of Mental Health Center, Operative Unit District n. 4, Piazza Galdi 84013 Cava de' Tirreni (SA) Italy.
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Objectives:  Bipolar disorders are reported to have a high incidence during childbearing years and the need may arise to start or continue a pharmacological treatment during pregnancy and the postpartum period. In the last few years several investigations have evaluated the efficacy of emerging mood-stabilizing agents in the treatment of bipolar disorders, such as lamotrigine, olanzapine, risperidone, quetiapine, aripiprazole and ziprasidone. A number of studies, which examined the use of oxcarbazepine, point to its potential usefulness in prophylactic treatment. The aim of this review is to compare information from the literature on the safety of lamotrigine, oxcarbazepine, risperidone, olanzapine, and quetiapine to the safety data on classic mood stabilizers during pregnancy and the postpartum period.

Methods:  A computerized search carried out from 1980 to April 5, 2006 led to the summarization of the results. (References were updated after acceptance and prior to publication.)

Results:  Emerging mood stabilizers show uncertain safety parameters in pregnancy and lactation. Limited information on lamotrigine and oxcarbazepine does not suggest a clear increase in teratogenicity, while olanzapine appears to be associated with a higher risk of metabolic complications in pregnant women. Data about risperidone and quetiapine are still inconclusive. Finally, the literature on the safety of these compounds in breastfeeding is anecdotal.

Conclusions:  Untreated pregnant bipolar women are at an increased risk of poor obstetrical outcomes and relapse of affective symptoms. On the other hand, classic antiepileptic drugs are well-known human teratogens, whereas data on lithium are partially ambiguous. The safety of emerging mood stabilizers in pregnancy and breastfeeding has not been examined extensively. Therefore, when approaching bipolar disorder, if possible, each episode must be considered separately.