Here is a topic that’s been making headlines with major news outlets all this week. In a new study from Denmark, researchers found that women treated for severe psychiatric conditions including major depression shortly after giving birth were more likely to be diagnosed as bipolar later in life compared to those whose first psychiatric episode happened at any other time.
Using Danish registries, they found 120,000 women treated in an inpatient hospital or outpatient clinic for their first bout of severe depression or another psychiatric condition starting around 1970. Of those, 2,900 had those episodes within a year after giving birth to their first child.
That didn’t include women with an initial diagnosis of bipolar disorder, since the researchers were interested in women with other psychoses that later became bipolar.
Over the next decade and a half, close to 3,100 of all women initially given a different diagnosis were ultimately diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Of women who had their initial psychiatric episode in the first month after giving birth, 14 percent were eventually diagnosed as bipolar. That compared to between four and five percent of women who were first treated in the rest of the year after giving birth or at any other time.
“Clinically these findings make absolute sense,” said Dr. Verinder Sharma, an obstetrician and gynecologist who studies bipolar disorder at the University of Western Ontario in London, Canada. “We have seen that childbirth is a potent and specific trigger of bipolar disorder.”
As a bipolar sufferer who was thrown into their worst-ever bout with the illness shortly after giving birth to my son, I don’t find this surprising at all.
What I would like to know is if there are any readers out there who had their first psychiatric episode within one month postpartum. For anyone whose journey into Bipolar happened at that time, what were the events after baby came that led to the BP diagnosis? I’m curious to see if your first few months of postpartum experiences (as a BP Newbie) parallel that of my own (diagnosed 8 years prior to giving birth).