THE UK’S first study into postpartum psychosis has been launched at the University of Worcester.
Despite affecting around one in 1,000 pregnant women every year, there is a lack of high-quality research on the disorder, which can cause paranoia, delusions and hallucinations, with the risk increasing in women who have bipolar disorder.
Researchers at the University of Worcester, led by Professor Lisa Jones and colleagues at Cardiff University as part of the Bipolar Disorder Research Network are working with women with bipolar disorder right from pregnancy, through birth, to the first three months after childbirth in order to identify factors that make some women more or less likely to experience postpartum psychosis.
Hoping the research will lead to better prediction and treatments, researcher, Amy Perry, said: “For a small number of women with no previous psychiatric history, childbirth itself can be a potent trigger for new onset bipolar disorder.
“However, for women who already have a history of bipolar disorder, the risk of experiencing an episode of mood illness during pregnancy or the postpartum is much higher. Though many women with bipolar disorder remain well during this time, it is estimated that approximately 50 per cent will experience some form of mood illness across the perinatal period, with the majority of episodes occurring following childbirth.”
So far around 80 women have signed up to take part in the ongoing study, but the researchers would be delighted to hear from more women with bipolar disorder who are pregnant.
Professor Lisa Jones said: “Though postpartum psychosis can be devastating for mothers and their families, the good news is that with treatment, most women are able to fully recover and are fantastic mothers to their children.
“We are hoping that our research will help us to understand the factors that may lead to an episode of postpartum psychosis, working prospectively with women, rather than asking them to reflect afterwards, when it is often difficult to fully recall all the things that were going on in the lead up to that time.
“Better understanding of these risk factors will allow better predictions about which women are likely to become unwell and hopefully improve treatments.”
• If you have bipolar disorder and are pregnant, or if you have experienced postpartum psychosis in the past, call 01905 542 880 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about Professor Jones and colleagues’ work visit the Mood Disorders page on the university website.