A Review of Postpartum Psychosis (2021)
Welcome to the Postpartum Psychosis Project
What is Postpartum Psychosis?
Over half of mothers experience mild mood changes after having a baby. Some women feel anxious, irritable, or sad starting around days 3-4 postpartum; this feeling is sometimes called the "baby blues" and will go away on its own. About 1-2 of every 10 women experiences postpartum depression (PPD) after delivery. These symptoms last longer than the baby blues (at least two weeks) and include low mood, sleep and appetite changes, fatigue, hopelessness, concentration problems, and anxiety, among others. Other postpartum psychiatric disorders include postpartum obsessive compulsive disorder, postpartum anxiety, and exacerbation of other underlying mental illnesses.
Postpartum psychosis (PP) is rarer and more severe than PPD and typically starts in the first few days or weeks after giving birth with mood changes including depression, mania, or a mixture of the two before progressing to psychosis. Symptoms can vary a lot and change very rapidly, even over the course of hours. Rarely, symptoms might start later than a few weeks after childbirth. PP should always be treated as a medical emergency, and most women who experience it will need to be treated in the hospital. About 1 in 1000 women will experience postpartum psychosis, and although a history of bipolar disorder is the most significant risk factor we know about, up to half of women will have no psychiatric history prior to their first episode of PP. We don't know very much about what causes PP, but we do know that a mixture of genetics, pregnancy hormones, and clinical circumstances all play a role.
About Our Study
Everyone who has had an episode of postpartum psychosis has a unique story. Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital’s (MGH) Ammon-Pinizzotto Center for Women’s Mental Health are announcing the launch of a new national research study called the MGH Postpartum Psychosis Project (MGHP3). We are looking for women who experienced an episode of psychosis within six months of giving birth. The episode must have occurred within the past ten years. Study participation involves a telephone interview and providing a DNA sample with a saliva collection tube sent by mail. The purpose of the study is to better describe the symptom pattern of postpartum psychosis and to examine the genetic contributions to risk for this disorder.
Request a Consultation
Our faculty psychiatrists offer brief consultations to medical providers caring for women with postpartum psychosis, free of charge.
Harvard Medical School
Massachusetts General Hospital
Ammon-Pinizzotto Center for Women's Mental Health
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