Some medications prescribed for bipolar disorder have been linked to birth defects, however, which presents a dilemma for women of childbearing age.

(The Food and Drug Administration, for instance, has warned that babies born to mothers who take lamotrigine in the first three months of pregnancy may have a higher chance of being born with a cleft lip or palate.

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Bipolar II disorder features a more moderate form of mania known as hypomania, which is easier to mistake for an ordinary mood swing.

While the prevalence of bipolar I is roughly the same among men and women, it has been suggested that bipolar II appears more often in the latter.

Hormones do appear to play a role in the course of bipolar disorder, since childbirth and menopause—two other events marked by a rapid change in estrogen and progesterone levels—can also precipitate depression in bipolar women.

It is not uncommon for women to have mood swings and believe that they have mood changes related to premenstrual syndrome (PMS) or premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), says Dr. "Properly evaluated, some of these women may have bipolar disorder, or some other condition." Women who present with self-diagnosed PMS or PMDD should be evaluated through prospective ratings, in which a daily calendar of symptoms is completed, with the menstrual days circled, says Dr. In this way, a determination can be made if symptoms occur only during the premenstrual time of the month, or at other times of the months as well.

Women with bipolar disorder may be especially susceptible to misdiagnosis.

A recent study estimated that the odds that a woman with bipolar disorder will fail to be correctly diagnosed are roughly three times the odds for a man.

"I want to completely go off medication for the pregnancy—and that scares everyone involved," Jil says.

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Bipolar drugs, pregnancy, and side effects The biological differences between men and women are seen most readily when it comes to the treatment of bipolar disorder.