[Differential diagnosis, course and outcome of postpartum psychoses. A catamnestic investigation]

Nervenarzt. 2000 May;71(5):386-92. doi: 10.1007/s001150050573.
[Article in German]


In a polydiagnostic study, a systematically recruited collective of 34 women with a first-episode postpartum psychosis was reexamined after a period of 6-26 years (averaging 12.6 years) in order to establish lifetime-diagnoses according to ICD-10 and Leonhard's classification, and to determine course and outcome. According to ICD-10, unipolar depressive disorders (32%) and acute polymorphous psychotic disorders (28%) represented the most frequent diagnoses. Applying Leonhard's classification revealed a marked predominance of cycloid psychoses (62%) with the subform of motility psychosis being the most frequent diagnosis (38%). Schizophrenias occurred rarely according to both classifications. Investigating the long-term course, we found in 59% multiphasic disorders. The mean number of episodes per patient was 2.5 (range 2-6) with a mean duration of 9.8 weeks (SD = 5.2). 6 patients (18%) had undergone a monophasic course, in 4 cases (12%) the course was not determinable. 17 women (50%) had 19 further deliveries during the follow-up period. The frequency of relapses in connection with a further delivery was 47%. Administering the Strauss-Carpenter-Outcome-Scale revealed a favourable outcome with a mean value of 14.1 (SD = 2.83) for our total sample. Only 4 patients (12%) had never recovered fully since the onset of the illness. Our findings suggest that cycloid psychoses, in particular motility psychoses, account for the majority of postpartum psychoses, and do not support the hypothesis of a nosological independence of postpartum psychoses. They provide further evidence of a favourable prognosis of severe postpartum psychiatric disorder despite a relatively high rate of non-puerperal and especially puerperal relapses.

Publication types

  • English Abstract

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Depression, Postpartum / etiology
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Germany / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / classification
  • Mental Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology
  • Mental Disorders / etiology
  • Population Surveillance
  • Pregnancy
  • Prognosis
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Psychotic Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Psychotic Disorders / etiology*
  • Psychotic Disorders / psychology
  • Puerperal Disorders / complications*
  • Puerperal Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Puerperal Disorders / psychology
  • Recurrence
  • Treatment Outcome