Postpartum Depression Could Transition to Bipolar Disorder
Mental disorders like depression, anxiety and eating disorders have a tendency to surface during periods of significant hormonal changes, such as adolescence, menopause or pregnancy. The period following childbirth could be a time of vulnerability for women diagnosed with depression.
Dr. Verinder Sharma, a psychiatrist from Canada’s Western University, says that changes during childbirth can initiate mania. Sharma and her team wanted to determine how childbirth affected the development of bipolar disorder in depressed women. According to their study, the conversion occurs in a large amount of women that have depression.
Among depressed women, the conversion rate to bipolarity was 11-18 times greater than that observed in women that were not postpartum. Sharma notes that this study is one of the first to examine bipolar disorder among depressed women postpartum. Previous studies have largely focused on the appearance of postpartum depression in women following childbirth. However, Sharma says that because so much attention is paid to depression among postpartum women, the symptoms of bipolar disorder can go unnoticed.
The findings could lead to better monitoring and screening for bipolar disorder among women that have recently given birth. The treatment of bipolar disorder requires different strategies than that for depression, and there are safety issues for women that have undiagnosed bipolar disorder. The condition is linked to suicide and even infanticide.
Early treatment is critical before the symptoms become more intense. Treatment requires an accurate diagnosis, and the wrong diagnosis can cause extensive problems. For instance, a prescription for antidepressants in a bipolar patient can make mania escalate and will not be effective in treating the depressive symptoms of bipolar disorder.
More information is needed to fully understand why childbirth creates such a high risk for developing bipolar disorder. While genetics and family history play a significant role in the development of bipolar disorder, the researchers believe that hormonal changes and low levels of sleep could act as a trigger for the disorder to develop.
Future research may involve the examination of the various environmental and biological factors involved with the transition from depression to bipolar disorder in postpartum recovery. Research could measure the impact of different risk factors in determining which depressed mothers convert to bipolar disorder.