This is a stressful time for all of us, especially those of us with bipolar, but women who are expecting or have recently had a baby also have extra concerns. Here are some resources and suggestions to help stay well.

For the most reliable advice from health professionals, the Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists answers some of your questions hereRCOG - COVID-19 and pregnancy.

Many will find this information and advice reassuring, for the majority of women in pregnancy with COVID-19 will not experience severe illness.

If you are newly pregnant and having a Booking In appointment with a midwife MAKE SURE you tell them you have bipolar disorder – even if you’ve been well for some time – as you should then be referred to your local Perinatal Mental Health Service for the specialist advice and care you need.

Pregnant women are in the group that the Chief Medical Officer has advised to reduce social contact through social distancing measures and we should all be following guidance on reducing risk through hand washing and other measures.

In addition to this pregnancy related advice there are good sources of information on how to look after your mental health at this time:

Stay connected with friends and family (see here for tips: stay connected.)

Try to establish a routine and look after yourself with periods of rest, mindfulness and exercise. It is also helpful to limit the amount of information about the virus and its effects to only a few time points in the day, and track your mood: mood scale.

The Mental Health Foundation has good advice on how to look after your mental health when staying at home: looking after your mental health while staying at home.

and on how to talk to your children about the Coronavirus pandemictalking to your children about the pandemic.

Visits from Midwives and Health Visitors are being reduced and are mainly done by phone or video whenever possible to keep us all safe and so many of these professionals can help their colleagues in the hospitals. Try not to be anxious about this but if you are having a problem with your mental or physical health do speak to a health professional – your Midwife or Health Visitor will still be able to give you emotional support and signpost you to more help if its needed.

Similarly GP surgeries are still providing telephone and video assessments and can discuss possible medication options.  It’s worth making sure that you think about your medication and order repeat prescriptions in plenty of time.

Your health professional can also refer you if you need more help from community health teams which continue to operate.

For advice about medications and other bipolar disorder related matters, see our leaflet: 5 key steps to staying well.

All NHS services, primary care and mental health teams, are likely to be under pressure in the coming weeks. For this reason other ways of getting support are really important. There are lots of ways in which charities like Bipolar UK can help.

If you need support from other women who also have bipolar and are expecting or have recently had a baby, join Bipolar UK’s eCommunity where there’s a thread on this subject: eCommunity - pregnancy and parenting.

If you’re not a member yet, you can register here: eCommunity.

If you need to talk to someone one-to-one, you can email [email protected] and they will put you in touch with one of us who can phone you back (I have bipolar and have two children so know a little bit about what you’re going through, though of course this is an especially stressful time). If you have questions I can’t answer, a great friend of our charity who is a specialist perinatal psychiatrist has promised to try to help.

If you have recently given birth and are at home, I’m sure you and your family are keeping a watchful eye on your mood and monitoring how much sleep you’re getting.  Any concerns that your mood is deteriorating and you are becoming unwell, contact your mental health team or GP. If you are home after an episode of postpartum psychosis, please use Bipolar UK for support and also APP Action on Postpartum Psychosis. The APP forum is available for people affected by PP to talk to other women and partners. They offer one to one peer support via email, private messaging on the forum, or via video call. Their regional postpartum psychosis cafe groups will also continue via video call. People personally affected by PP (woman, partner, family members) who would like to access this support should email [email protected].

Please reach out for help, or if you have any other information or resource particularly relevant to women with bipolar who are pregnant or who have recently given birth please send to [email protected] and mark for Clare.