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Functional Recovery After Postpartum Psychosis: A Prospective Longitudinal Study

J Clin Psychiatry 2017;78(1):122–128

Objective: Postpartum psychosis is an acute and severe mood disorder. Although the prognosis is generally good, postpartum psychosis is a highly stressful life-event presumed to have a major impact on functioning and well-being beyond the acute stage of the illness. We studied functional recovery, including psychosocial functioning and the presence of psychological distress, in patients with a recent diagnosis of postpartum psychosis.

Methods: Seventy-eight patients with postpartum psychosis consecutively admitted for inpatient hospitalization between 2005 and 2011 were assessed 9 months postpartum. Included were patients with DSM-IV-TR diagnoses of psychotic disorder not otherwise specified, brief psychotic disorder, or mood disorder with psychotic features, each requiring the additional specifier “with postpartum onset.” Functioning was assessed in 4 domains by the Longitudinal Interval Follow-up Evaluation–Range of Impaired Functioning Tool (LIFE-RIFT). Symptomatology was measured by the Brief Symptom Inventory and compared to a matched population-based cohort.

Results: Nine months postpartum, 74% (58/78) of women with postpartum psychosis reported good functioning on the domains of work, interpersonal relations, recreation, and global satisfaction. Moreover, 88% (69/78) of patients with postpartum psychosis had resumed their premorbid employment and household responsibilities. Compared to the general population, patients with postpartum psychosis reported a higher burden of depression and anxiety (effect sizes r 0.14). Patients who had a relapse episode (18%) experienced considerable functional impairments across several domains.

Conclusions: Nine months postpartum, the majority of patients with postpartum psychosis reported good functional recovery. Our relatively improved functional outcomes compared to nonpostpartum onset could be attributed to the postpartum onset and/or more favorable risk factor profile.