Long-term course and outcome of severe postpartum psychiatric disorders

Psychopathology. Jul-Aug 1999;32(4):192-202. doi: 10.1159/000029090.


Thirty-nine women who had suffered from a severe first-episode postpartum psychiatric illness were re-examined after a period of 6-26 years (averaging 12.5 years). Diagnoses were established according to ICD-10 and Leonhard's classification, revealing a marked predominance of cycloid psychoses (54%) according to Leonhard. There was no evidence of the nosological independence of postpartum psychosis. Only 4 patients (10%) had never recovered fully since the onset of the illness. In contrast, 6 patients had undergone a monophasic course without any further psychopathology. In 20 cases (51%) the illness had run a multiphasic course. The average number of episodes per patient was 2.5 (range 2-6). The course was not determinable in 4 patients (10%). Nineteen women (49%) had 22 further deliveries after the first manifestation of the illness. The frequency of a relapse in connection with further pregnancy or delivery was 50%. Applying the Strauss-Carpenter Outcome Scale, we found a favourable outcome for the total sample with a mean value of 14.1 (SD = 2.6). The vast majority of patients (75%) showed no persistent alterations. Our findings provide further evidence of a favourable prognosis of severe postpartum psychiatric disorder despite the remarkably high rate of puerperal relapses.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Depression, Postpartum / psychology*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Pregnancy
  • Prognosis
  • Psychotic Disorders / psychology*
  • Recurrence
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Treatment Outcome