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Arch Womens Ment Health. 2018 Oct;21(5):543-551. doi: 10.1007/s00737-018-0825-2. Epub 2018 Mar 13.

How obstetric settings can help address gaps in psychiatric care for pregnant and postpartum women with bipolar disorder.

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University of Massachusetts Medical School and UMass Memorial Health Care, 55 Lake Ave North, Worcester, MA, 01655, USA.
University of Massachusetts Medical School and UMass Memorial Health Care, 55 Lake Ave North, Worcester, MA, 01655, USA.
European Medical and Clinical Division, Terumo Europe N.V., Researchpark Hassrode 1520, Interleuvenlaan 40, 3001, Leuven, Belgium.
University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, 3811 O'Hara Street, Pittsburgh, PA, 15213, USA.


To elucidate (1) the challenges associated with under-recognition of bipolar disorder in obstetric settings, (2) barriers pregnant and postpartum women with bipolar disorder face when trying to access psychiatric care, and (3) how obstetric settings can identify such women and connect them with mental health services. Structured, in-depth interviews were conducted with 25 pregnant and postpartum women recruited from obstetric practices who scored ≥ 10 on the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale and met DSM-IV criteria for bipolar disorder I, II, or not otherwise specified using the Mini International Neuropsychiatric Interview. Quantitative analyses included descriptive statistics. Interviews were transcribed, and resulting data were analyzed using a grounded theory approach. Most participants (n = 19, 79.17%) did not have a clinical diagnosis of bipolar disorder documented in their medical records nor had received referral for treatment during pregnancy (n = 15, 60%). Of participants receiving pharmacotherapy (n = 14, 58.33%), most were treated with an antidepressant alone (n = 10, 71.42%). Most medication was prescribed by an obstetric (n = 4, 28.57%) or primary care provider (n = 7, 50%). Qualitative interviews indicated that participants want their obstetric practices to proactively screen for, discuss and help them obtain mental health treatment. Women face challenges in securing mental health treatment appropriate to their bipolar illness. Obstetric providers provide the bulk of medical care for these women and need supports in place to (1) better recognize bipolar disorder, (2) avoid inappropriate prescribing practices for women with undiagnosed bipolar disorder, and (3) ensure women are referred to specialized treatment when needed.


Bipolar disorder; Obstetric; Perinatal; Postpartum; Pregnancy; Treatment

[Available on 2019-10-01]
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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