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Prog Brain Res. 2001;133:321-31.

Molecular genetic approaches to puerperal psychosis.

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Division of Neurosciences, Department of Psychiatry, University of Birmingham, Birmingham B15 2QZ, UK.


Puerperal psychosis, an episode of mania or psychosis precipitated by childbirth follows approximately one in 1000 deliveries. The evidence of clinical, outcome and genetic studies supports the hypothesis that the majority of puerperal psychotic episodes are manifestations of an affective disorder diathesis with a puerperal trigger. Furthermore the available evidence supports the hypothesis that genes are involved in susceptibility to both diathesis and trigger. For complex genetic disorders such as affective illness there are marked benefits in focussing on a homogeneous subtype which allows a subset of hypotheses to be tested. Molecular genetic studies of puerperal psychosis provide an excellent example of this strategy, allowing a hierarchy of hypotheses concerning the involvement of neurosteroid pathways in pathophysiology to be tested. Puerperal psychosis results in considerable suffering to a woman and her family. Elucidating the pathophysiological basis of this disorder will lead to better prevention and treatment and, it is anticipated, inform research on affective disorders more generally.

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