ZocdocAnswersIf someone has bipolar disorder will they pass it to their children?

Question

If someone has bipolar disorder will they pass it to their children?

My wife suffers from bipolar disorder and just found out she is pregnant. I never thought about it before, but could she give this to our child? Are psychological disorders passed to children by their parents?

Answer

It turns out that some psychiatric disorders do have rather strong genetic components. Bipolar disorder is among these, meaning that many people with bipolar disorder have other family members that also suffer from the condition. Some studies have shown that up to 5-10% of first degree relatives of someone who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder will also develop the condition. Obviously, 5-10% is not a huge risk, so there are clearly other things going on that determine whether or not a person will develop bipolar disorder. In other words, it is far from a sure thing that your child will develop bipolar disorder, but they are definitely at higher risk and it is something that you will want to think about and pay attention to as your child grows up. When your child is born, you should definitely mention this family history to their new pediatrician, who will assist you in monitoring your child's health over the coming years. Your wife should also work with her psychiatrist and her OB GYN doctor to make sure that any medications she might be taking during the pregnancy for her bipolar disorder are safe and do not cause any risks to the fetus!

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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