Pregnant women with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, or a personal or family history of postpartum psychosis, should be closely monitored by a multidisciplinary care team for at least three months following delivery.
As published in a new review in the journal The Obstetrician & Gynecologist (TOG), there are clear risk factors for postpartum psychosis that all women should be asked about during pregnancy to ensure early recognition and prompt treatment.
Postpartum psychosis is a severe mental illness with a dramatic onset shortly after childbirth, affecting approximately 1-2 in 1000 deliveries. However, the review notes that the true incidence may be higher.
The review notes consistent evidence of a specific relationship between postpartum psychosis and bipolar disorder. Women with bipolar disorder have at least a 1 in 4 risk of suffering postpartum psychosis.
Genetics are also a factor and women with bipolar disorder and a personal or family history of postpartum psychosis are at particularly high risk with greater than 1 in 2 deliveries affected by postpartum psychosis.
However, half of women who develop postpartum psychosis have no family history or previous risk factors that put them in a high risk group for the condition.
The review emphasizes the need for close contact and review from a multidisciplinary team during the perinatal period for at least three months following delivery, even if the woman is well and recommends a written plan covering pregnancy and the postnatal period which should be discussed with the woman and her family.
“Women at high risk of postpartum psychosis need very careful care before conception, throughout pregnancy and during the postpartum period, including pre-conception counseling and close monitoring and psychiatric assessment after childbirth,” said Ian Jones, Ph.D., a co-author of the review.
“Postpartum psychosis is a true psychiatric emergency and it is vital that is recognized early and treated immediately. Admission to hospital is usually necessary and women should ideally be offered a specialist mother and baby unit where the best treatment options can be established.”
Jason Waugh, TOG’s editor-in-chief, said, “This review emphasizes the importance of women at high risk of postpartum psychosis as well as the early recognition and prompt treatment of women who develop the condition.
“This paper also underlines that half of women who experience postpartum psychosis have no previous risk factors. It is therefore vital that all women are made aware of the condition and its signs and symptoms.”