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The Postpartum Psychosis Project
at Massachusetts General Hospital

There is a lot we don't know about postpartum psychosis (PP). Aside from a history of bipolar disorder or psychotic illness, researchers have yet to uncover many risk factors that can help us to identify women at high risk before they deliver. The causes, symptoms patterns, and prognosis of PP are not well understood. Because women whose mothers and sisters have had it are much more likely to experience PP, genetics seem to play an important role in shaping risk for this disorder. The primary goals of our study are to describe the risk factors of PP and to examine how genes affect risk of this disorder.

If you have experienced a psychotic episode within 6 months of giving birth in the past 10 years and are over 18, you could help us understand this rare illness.

What we are studying

MGHP3 is studying the genetics of PP, a rare but very serious condition occurring in approximately 1-2 in 1000 new mothers. PP is associated with extreme delirium-like behavior, delusions, hallucinations, and an increased risk of suicide and infanticide. We want to understand possible genetic factors which may contribute to a woman's risk for the disease.

Why it is important

Very little is known about the factors which contribute to postpartum psychosis, and the genetics of the disorder are particularly understudied. This project aims to identify potential genetic risk factors in order to provide better care to future patients potentially at risk for postpartum psychosis. 


What we hope to accomplish

We will obtain a DNA (saliva) sample from eligible participants who have experienced postpartum psychosis within the last ten years and analyze the results of these samples to identify genetic risk factors. Clinical interviews will give us a better understanding of the course of this rare disorder.

Who can participate

Women who:

  • Have experienced a psychotic episode within 6 months of a live birth, still birth, or Intrauterine Fetal Death that occurred within the past 10 years

  • Are willing and able to provide informed consent

  • Are fluent in English

  • Are over 18 at the time of consent


Who is not eligible at this time:​

Women who:

  • Were diagnosed with a psychotic disorder such as Schizophrenia or Psychosis Not Otherwise Specified (NOS) BEFORE the postpartum period. You may still be eligible if you have a mood disorder with psychotic features or if psychotic symptoms were due to an organic cause like a medical condition or a response to a medication or drug.

  • Were actively abusing substances within the postpartum time-frame (Patients who report marijuana use would still be accepted into the study.) Examples of exclusionary substances: cocaine, amphetamine, methamphetamine, heroin, opium, MDMA, ecstasy, Molly. Use outside of the postpartum time-frame is acceptable. 


How participation works

We'll start by explaining the study and asking a few questions to see if you might be eligible to participate. ​You may ask questions at any time. If you are eligible and want to participate, we will conduct a telephone interview to ask you about your experience with postpartum psychosis and the symptoms you may have had leading up to it.

After the interview, we will mail you a saliva DNA collection kit with a prepaid return envelope. We will protect your identity by linking your DNA to a unique code that does not contain any of your information.​​​ We will not give your information to anyone outside our team in accordance with federal HIPAA laws.

Want more info?
If you want more information about our project, feel free to email or call us. No travel is required to participate; all study procedures are conducted by phone and by mail. Unfortunately, we are not able to provide compensation for this study. This study is funded by a private donation and our own departmental funds.


Principal Investigator

Lee Cohen, MD

Massachusetts General Hospital


Research Coordinators

Margaret Gaw

Hannah Yoon
(617) 643-7205

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