Lawson researcher sings the baby blues

August 22, 2012

The impact of bipolar disorder during pregnancy has been hotly contended among the research community. Now, a new study from Lawson Health Research Institute and Western University is sorting out the debate and calling for more targeted, prospective research.

Bipolar disorder is characterized by depression, hypomania, or mania. It is most common among women, and its episodes are often concentrated during the height of the reproductive years.

Bipolar disorder can lead to suicide, , and increased risk for psychiatric hospitalization during the . During pregnancy, though, the impact is unclear. Through a comprehensive literature review, Dr. Verinder Sharma and his team sought to clearly define what scientists already knew about bipolar disorder during pregnancy, and where they should look next.

Despite contradictory findings, their review suggests pregnancy could have a positive impact on bipolar disorder. Throughout the literature, bipolar II disorder was either uncommon or in during pregnancy. Women already diagnosed with bipolar disorder had fewer and shorter episodes while pregnant. also had a lower risk of any other than non-pregnant women.

However, the impact of mood stabilizer medications has complicated much of the existing data. In the literature, bipolar disorder is often misdiagnosed as depression, and antidepressants are prescribed as treatment. These medications are known to make bipolar symptoms worse. Similarly, many women taking mood stabilizers discontinue their prescriptions to avoid potential side effects on their unborn babies. This rapid break appears to provoke bipolar episodes.

These circumstances have made it challenging for scientists to separate the impact of the drugs from the impact of the disorder. To make a clear judgment, Dr. Sharma is calling for large, multicenter, prospective studies that specifically address the natural course of the disorder.

"There is no period in a woman's life when the risk of relapse of bipolar disorder is as high as in the postpartum period. This is in sharp contrast to pregnancy, when women may experience an improvement in their symptoms," he says. "If we fail to understand the effect of pregnancy on bipolar disorder, we will fail to understand ."

Explore further: Preventive treatment of pregnant women at high postpartum psychosis risk

More information: The study was funded by the Ontario Mental Health Foundation, and will be published online tomorrow in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

Related Stories

Preventive treatment of pregnant women at high postpartum psychosis risk

March 9, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- Twenty-nine pregnant women with a history of psychotic symptoms after previous deliveries, but not at other times, all remained stable without medication throughout their current pregnancies. Those who ...

Post-partum psychiatric episodes linked with increased risk of developing bipolar affective disorder

December 5, 2011
Experiencing a psychiatric episode within the first 30 days post-partum appears to be associated with an increased risk of developing bipolar affective disorder, according to a report published Online First by Archives of ...

Recommended for you

Itsy bitsy spider: Fear of spiders and snakes is deeply embedded in us

October 19, 2017
Snakes and spiders evoke fear and disgust in many people, even in developed countries where hardly anybody comes into contact with them. Until now, there has been debate about whether this aversion is innate or learnt. Scientists ...

Inflamed support cells appear to contribute to some kinds of autism

October 18, 2017
Modeling the interplay between neurons and astrocytes derived from children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine, with colleagues in Brazil, say innate ...

Study suggests psychedelic drugs could reduce criminal behavior

October 18, 2017
Classic psychedelics such as psilocybin (often called magic mushrooms), LSD and mescaline (found in peyote) are associated with a decreased likelihood of antisocial criminal behavior, according to new research from investigators ...

Taking probiotics may reduce postnatal depression

October 18, 2017
Researchers from the University of Auckland and Otago have found evidence that a probiotic given in pregnancy can help prevent or treat symptoms of postnatal depression and anxiety.

Before assigning responsibility, our minds simulate alternative outcomes, study shows

October 17, 2017
How do people assign a cause to events they witness? Some philosophers have suggested that people determine responsibility for a particular outcome by imagining what would have happened if a suspected cause had not intervened.

Schizophrenia disrupts the brain's entire communication system, researchers say

October 17, 2017
Some 40 years since CT scans first revealed abnormalities in the brains of schizophrenia patients, international scientists say the disorder is a systemic disruption to the brain's entire communication system.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.