Study shows family psychiatric history increases risk of postpartum psychiatric episodes

May 7, 2018, American Psychiatric Association
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

A new mother's risk of postpartum psychiatric conditions increases when she has an immediate family member with a psychiatric disorder, especially bipolar disorder, according to research published today in the American Journal of Psychiatry. The increased risk occurs with both male or female family members. The authors presented their findings at a media briefing in New York, where they had come to deliver a presentation at the Annual Meeting of the American Psychiatric Association (APA).

Family of psychiatric disorders is a known risk factor for developing psychiatric disorders at any time in life, and having a mother or sister with a history of postpartum psychiatric disorders increases a woman's risk for developing them. Less is known about the influence of family history of other psychiatric disorders and the influence of male family members' psychiatric history, particularly in women without a history of mental health problems. The postpartum period is a vulnerable period for the onset of psychiatric disorders.

The study, led by Anna E. Bauer, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Research Associate, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, looked at how family history of psychiatric disorder is associated with postpartum psychiatric disorders in mothers with and without prior psychiatric conditions. The researchers looked at records of birth and psychiatric treatment in a national population-based cohort in Denmark. The study involved more than 6,600 new mothers who experienced a psychiatric disorder within a year after delivery (including 2,603 within six months and 4,085 within a year).

The study was unique in looking at whether the familial risk varies depending on the sex of the family member. They found that a history of psychiatric disorders in male relatives was just as influential in the risk of postpartum psychiatric disorders as a history of psychiatric disorders in female relatives. The risk for postpartum psychiatric conditions was greater when there was a family history of bipolar disorder than for family history of depression or psychiatric conditions more broadly. The association with family history was stronger among women with no history of psychiatric disorders.

"The importance of screening for perinatal mood and anxiety has been increasingly recognized in recent years, but most of these efforts rely on identifying women after they become symptomatic," said lead author Bauer. "We hope that additional information about family history in any first-degree relative - for example, bipolar disorder in a brother - can help clinicians predict who may benefit from increased surveillance before symptoms emerge, in order to intervene as early as possible."

Current practice guidelines from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists do not include history as a consideration for postpartum mental health conditions. The authors conclude that of psychiatric disorder is highly valuable information in identifying women at risk for postpartum psychiatric illness. Information about psychiatric history in fathers and brothers is as important as a history of postpartum in mothers and sisters, the researchers note.

Explore further: Postpartum depression risk, duration and recurrence

More information: Anna E. Bauer et al, Familiality of Psychiatric Disorders and Risk of Postpartum Psychiatric Episodes: A Population-Based Cohort Study, American Journal of Psychiatry (2018). DOI: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2018.17111184

Related Stories

Postpartum depression risk, duration and recurrence

September 26, 2017
Postpartum affective disorder (AD), including postpartum depression (PPD), affects more than one in two hundred women with no history of prior psychiatric episodes, and raises the risk of later affective disorder for those ...

Asthma and hay fever linked to increased risk of psychiatric disorders

April 23, 2018
Patients with asthma and hay fever have an increased risk of developing psychiatric disorders, finds a new study published in open-access journal Frontiers in Psychiatry. Almost 11% of patients with common allergic diseases ...

Psychiatric disorders do not increase risk of Alzheimer's disease

April 4, 2017
Psychiatric disorders do not increase the risk of Alzheimer's disease, according to a recent study from the University of Eastern Finland. However, the prevalence of psychiatric diagnoses increased before the Alzheimer's ...

Researchers say chronic dizziness can result from, or trigger, psychiatric disorders

April 30, 2018
While most cases of chronic dizziness result from a physical disorder, psychiatric issues can be a cause—or a consequence—of chronic dizziness, according to research published The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association.

Recommended for you

It's okay when you're not okay: Study re-evaluates resilience in adults

August 16, 2018
Adversity is part of life: Loved ones die. Soldiers deploy to war. Patients receive terminal diagnoses.

Expecting to learn: Language acquisition in toddlers improved by predictable situations

August 16, 2018
The first few years of a child's life are crucial for learning language, and though scientists know the "when," the "how" is still up for debate. The sheer number of words a child hears is important; that number predicts ...

Men and women show surprising differences in seeing motion

August 16, 2018
Researchers reporting in the journal Current Biology on August 16 have found an unexpected difference between men and women. On average, their studies show, men pick up on visual motion significantly faster than women do.

Stress during pregnancy increases risk of mood disorders for female offspring

August 16, 2018
High maternal levels of the stress hormone cortisol during pregnancy increase anxious and depressive-like behaviors in female offspring at the age of 2, reports a new study in Biological Psychiatry. The effect of elevated ...

Letting PTSD patients choose method of treatment improves their health, quality of life: new research

August 16, 2018
Letting people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) choose between treatment methods improves their quality of life and reduces the disorder's symptoms, according to new research from Case Western Reserve University.

Dominant men make decisions faster

August 16, 2018
Hierarchies exist across all human and animal societies, organized by what behavioral scientists refer to as dominance. Dominant individuals tend to climb higher up the hierarchy ladder of their particular society, earning ...

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.