Diagnosis and treatment of postpartum bipolar depression

Expert Rev Neurother. 2010 Jul;10(7):1045-51. doi: 10.1586/ern.10.81.


The postpartum period is a time of increased risk of new-onset psychiatric illness, hospital admissions and out-patient psychiatric care for new mothers. Research into postpartum mood disorders has focused primarily on major depressive disorder, and has overlooked the study of bipolar disorder, particularly bipolar II disorder and bipolar disorder not otherwise specified. Failure to properly diagnose postpartum bipolar disorder may delay the initiation of appropriate treatment, lead to inappropriate treatment - thereby precipitating (hypo)mania, rapid cycling or a mixed episode - or result in polypharmacy and treatment refractoriness. The most serious consequence, however, is the high risk of infanticide and suicide among women with postpartum bipolar disorder. While no specific screening tools have been validated for postpartum mania or bipolar depression, symptoms of hypomania, atypical depression, a family history of bipolar disorder and a rapid onset of depressive symptoms following delivery may suggest a bipolar diathesis. In the absence of any pharmacological or psychotherapeutic treatments to guide clinical decision-making, it is recommended that the treatment of postpartum bipolar depression follow the same guidelines as the treatment of non-postpartum bipolar depression, using medications that are compatible with lactation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bipolar Disorder / diagnosis*
  • Bipolar Disorder / therapy*
  • Depression, Postpartum / diagnosis*
  • Depression, Postpartum / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans