Causes of mood disorders in pregnancy and childbirth
Pregnancy and childbirth are times of great change – both at the biological and psychological levels. It is likely that many factors are involved in making some women more vulnerable to becoming unwell at these times.
We know that postpartum mood episodes run in families and that genes play a role. The big hormonal changes in pregnancy and the postpartum are likely to be important, but other factors, such a sleep disturbance and the psychological impact of becoming a new mother are also likely to play a role in some women.
Treatments for mood disorders in pregnancy and childbirth
Women with episodes of perinatal mood disorders can be treated using a combination of different approaches. These include medication and talking treatments and will depend on the severity of the episode.
Postpartum depression may respond to general support or particular talking treatments, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). More severe episodes of postpartum depression may require antidepressants or other medications.
The majority of women with postpartum psychosis need to be admitted to hospital and treated with medication. Where possible, women should be admitted with their baby to a mother and baby unit (MBU). Unfortunately most areas of the UK are still not served by an MBU.
Taking medication in pregnancy, or when breastfeeding, is always a difficult decision. There is often no right or wrong answer and all the risks and benefits must be considered before making a decision.
Women taking medication should talk to the professionals involved in their care as early as possible if they are considering becoming pregnant or find they are pregnant.