New study published: post-partum psychosis and its association with bipolar disorder

Our research findings on post-partum psychosis and its association with bipolar disorder have recently been published in Lancet Psychiatry.

We compared genetic vulnerability to bipolar disorder and major depression in 203 women with a history of post-partum psychosis as a first lifetime psychiatric episode, 1225 women with bipolar disorder who had given birth but had no history of post-partum psychosis or had experienced post-partum psychosis in the context of a pre-existing bipolar illness.

Interestingly, a different pattern was found among women with first-onset postpartum psychosis compared to women with bipolar disorder. Genetic vulnerability to bipolar disorder overlapped between the two groups of women, however, women with first-onset postpartum psychosis had a significantly lower genetic vulnerability to major depression than women with bipolar disorder.

Our study is the first to provide biological evidence to inform the definition and classification of post-partum psychosis and supports previous clinical findings pointing to the importance of individualised management. It suggests first-onset postpartum psychosis may have a distinctive genetic risk profile, which only partially overlaps with that of bipolar disorder and supports the recognition of first-onset postpartum psychosis as a separate classification within the bipolar disorder spectrum both in research and clinical settings.

We would like to say a special thank you to all the women who have kindly taken part in our BDRN research and contributed to this study.

The Lancet Psychiatry, 8(12), December 2021, Pages 1045-1052.