Postpartum psychoses are a severe form of postnatal mood disorders, affecting 1–2 in every 1000 deliveries. These episodes typically present as acute mania or depression with psychosis within the first few weeks of childbirth, which, as life-threatening psychiatric emergencies, can have a significant adverse impact on the mother, baby and wider family. The nosological status of postpartum psychosis remains contentious; however, evidence indicates most episodes to be manifestations of bipolar disorder and a vulnerability to a puerperal trigger. While childbirth appears to be a potent trigger of severe mood disorders, the precise mechanisms by which postpartum psychosis occurs are poorly understood. This review examines the current evidence with respect to potential aetiology and childbirth-related triggers of postpartum psychosis. Findings to date have implicated neurobiological factors, such as hormones, immunological dysregulation, circadian rhythm disruption and genetics, to be important in the pathogenesis of this disorder. Prediction models, informed by prospective cohort studies of high-risk women, are required to identify those at greatest risk of postpartum psychosis.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited