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Bipolar disorders common in women during postpartum phase

depression in postpartum period

A new research published in the recent issue of the journal JAMA Psychiatry has found that the incidence of bipolar disorders is strikingly high in new mothers. The research, which was carried out by Katherine Wisner from Northwestern University in Chicago along with her colleagues found that almost 22.6% women suffered from bipolar disorders and other associated comorbidities, during post-partum phase.

The researchers carried out the study in order to find out whether conducting screening tests for depression in pregnant women and new mothers is of any value. For this, the researchers screened 10,000 women who had delivered at Magee-Women’s Hospital in Pittsburgh. All the participants were visited by a nurse or a social worker during their hospital stay and screened telephonically 4 to 6 weeks after delivery. The researchers used the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) for screening the women for depression. The women who had an EPDS score of more than or equal to ten were given the option of psychiatric evaluation. 

The researchers found that of the 10,000 women screened, 1,396 tested positive for depression. While 826 of them had a psychiatric evaluation at home, 147 underwent a diagnostic evaluation through telephone. It was seen that the rate of postpartum depression was more in women who were younger, single, African American, publicly insured and less well educated. A whopping 40.1% of the participants reported that their depression began after the delivery of their baby. Another 33.4% reported the beginning of depression during their pregnancy while 26.5% participants reported that they were depressed even before their pregnancy.

While 68.5% of the women suffering from depression were diagnosed as cases of unipolar depression, almost 22.6% of the women were found to be suffering from bipolar depression. Almost 19% of women with EPDS more than 10, also confessed that they had episodes where they wanted to inflict self-harm. The researchers have opined that while it is important to screen the women for post-partum depression, it is equally important to devise means to follow up such women and to treat them.


Editor: Dr. Bimal Rajalingam MBBS DNB (Resp Med)

Saturday, March 30, 2013
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