Can a Baby Be Bipolar?

The classic signs of a bipolar disorder are extreme ups and downs.  If we think about infancy, all young babies are by definition bipolar.  They can go from crying one minute to smiling and laughing the next.  If we saw that type of behavior in an adult we would suspect they were bipolar.  In a young baby, these bipolar symptoms are normal.  That is why pediatric bipolar disorder is rarely diagnosed under the age of nine; but occasional reports indicate in it can present as young as six.

Pediatric bipolar disorder is often diagnosed on the basis of behavior because a child may not always be able to express himself appropriately in words. They may lose weight secondary to a poor appetite, no longer enjoy their usual activities, and have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep.  These are the usual characteristics of depression.  When children are in the manic phase of the bipolar disorder they exhibit behavior similar to ADD and ADHD.  The have difficulty focusing and go from one activity to another.  School work may suffer and teachers may complain about their behavior in the classroom.

Since it is difficult to make the diagnosis of bipolar disorder in babies, researchers have looked back at older children in whom the diagnosis is certain for clues during their infancy.  What they found is that mothers of bipolar children were more likely to report infantile bipolar symptoms than mothers of children not diagnosed with bipolar disorder.  Specifically, children with bipolar disorder were more likely to have been reported as a stiffened infant and act colicky.  They would hold their little bodies rigid and cry and would be difficult to console.

There seems to be an inherited risk factor for bipolar disorder in children.  In families with a first degree relative with bipolar disorder, and by first degree we mean parents or siblings, the risk is increased seven fold.  We can also see changes in MRI brain scans in children and adults with bipolar disorder.  The conclusion is that specific genes may influence the structure and development of the brain leading to this problem.

This does not mean if a mother or father is bipolar the baby will absolutely grow up to be bipolar.  This is the whole point of babyQ.  We know during pregnancy good and bad genes can be turned on and off depending on the mother’s lifestyle.  This is called epigenetics.  A mother can use this to her advantage by properly managing her lifestyle, nutrition, exercise and stress during pregnancy.  She can turn off the bad genes and turn on the good ones with good babyQ score.  She should pay particular attention to nutrition and stress.  Pregnant mothers need to eat lots of fruits and vegetables, find healthy ways to manage stress such as exercise and talking with family and friends, and get a healthy night’s sleep every night.  These simple lifestyle enhancements can have a profound influence on how your baby develops in the womb and this can set the course for the rest of your child’s life.  Pregnancy can be a powerful tool to amplify your child’s best genes and to turn off the bad.

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Dr. Mark Gostine

About Dr. Mark Gostine

A physician for more than 30 years. He is a proud father of four and a grandfather of two. The announcement of his daughter Emily’s first pregnancy and the joy of his first grandchild, were major turning points in his life. They became the inspiration for babyQ. From then on, he wanted to dedicate his clinical knowledge and energy to helping young women have healthier pregnancies and better babies. Voted one of the best 100 doctors in his field in America, Dr. Gostine is a practitioner of nutrition who creates health education modules for his patients. He, along with Dr. of my children,” he says. “My hope is that young mothers and fathers everywhere will give their children the best start because it is so much better to prevent disease early than treat it later.” Dr. Gostine, a native of Michigan, received his medical degree from Wayne State University College of Medicine in Detroit, and is Board Certified in both anesthesiology and pain management. He completed his undergraduate studies and his medical residency in anesthesiology at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, followed by a pain management fellowship at the Kansas City Consortium in Missouri. Currently President of Michigan Pain Consultants and Founder of ProCare Systems, he is based in Grand Rapids, Michigan.