Researchers have linked symptoms of mental illness following childbirth… (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles…)
Childbirth can trigger psychiatric illnesses in some women, including depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder and even psychosis. A study published Monday, however, draws the first connection ever between postpartum mental illness and later bipolar disorder.
Researchers searched a Danish registry of more than 120,000 women receiving treatment for a first episode of a psychiatric illness other than bipolar disorder. They found 3,062 women who had a first episode of a mental disorder other than bipolar disorder but who were later diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
The analysis showed that the women who reported having symptoms of mental illness within two weeks of childbirth were more than three times as likely to be diagnosed later with bipolar disorder compared to women whose first episode of mental illness was not in the postpartum period. About 14% of the women with a first-time psychiatric problem that occurred just after childbirth went on to develop bipolar disorder within 15 years.
Bipolar disorder is marked by mood swings that include periods of both deep depression and episodes of heightened mood or mania.
The study implies that a postpartum-onset mental problem could really be an underlying bipolar disorder, say the authors, led by Trine Munk-Olsen of the National Centre for Register-Based Research, Aarhus University, in Aarhus, Denmark.
They wrote: "Despite improvements in reliability over recent decades, the diagnosis of psychiatric disorders, particularly of first episodes, is often unclear and needs to be revised as the illness develops."
An accurate diagnosis is critical because treatments vary by condition, they note. For example, antidepressants can worsen the condition of someone with bipolar disorder.
The study was published Monday in the Archives of General Psychiatry.
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