Context Affective disorders are common in women, with many episodes having an onset in pregnancy or during the postpartum period.
Objective To investigate the occurrence and timing of perinatal mood episodes in women with bipolar I disorder, bipolar II disorder, and recurrent major depression (RMD).
Setting and Patients Women were recruited in our ongoing research on the genetic and nongenetic determinants of major affective disorders. Participants were interviewed and case notes were reviewed. Best-estimate diagnoses were made according to DSM-IV criteria. The 1785 parous women identified included 1212 women with bipolar disorder (980 with type I and 232 with type II) and 573 with RMD. Data were available on 3017 live births.
Main Outcome Measures We report the lifetime occurrence of perinatal mood episodes, the rates of perinatal episodes per pregnancy/postpartum period, and the timing of the onset of episodes in relation to delivery.
Results More than two-thirds of all diagnostic groups reported at least 1 lifetime episode of illness during pregnancy or the postpartum period. Women with bipolar I disorder reported an approximately 50% risk of a perinatal major affective episode per pregnancy/postpartum period. Risks were lower in women with RMD or bipolar II disorder, at approximately 40% per pregnancy/postpartum period. Mood episodes were significantly more common in the postpartum period in bipolar I disorder and RMD. Most perinatal episodes occurred within the first postpartum month, with mania or psychosis having an earlier onset than depression.
Conclusions Although episodes of postpartum mood disorder are more common in bipolar I disorder and manic and psychotic presentations occur earlier in the postpartum period, perinatal episodes are highly prevalent across the mood disorder spectrum.