Interventions for the prevention and treatment of postpartum psychosis: a systematic review

Arch Womens Ment Health. 2011 Apr;14(2):89-98. doi: 10.1007/s00737-010-0199-6. Epub 2010 Dec 3.


Postpartum psychosis is a serious disorder that can cause negative consequences for the mother, infant, and entire family. While reports of this condition date back for centuries, little is known about what interventions are most effective for this population. The purpose of this systematic review was to examine the research evidence on interventions for the prevention and treatment of postpartum psychosis. Studies were searched using CINAHL, EMBASE, MEDLINE, PsycINFO, and PubMed databases. All primary research studies published in English since 1970 that explored interventions for the prevention or treatment of postpartum psychosis were included. The search resulted in 26 studies on interventions for postpartum psychosis, with 10 focusing on prevention and 17 focusing on treatment. Studies on the prevention of postpartum psychosis have examined the effects of mood stabilizers, antipsychotics, and hormone therapy, while those examining treatment have included electroconvulsive therapy, mood stabilizers, antipsychotics, hormones, and the beta blocker propranolol. Only preliminary evidence suggests which interventions may be effective strategies to prevent (e.g., lithium) and treat (e.g., electroconvulsive therapy) postpartum psychosis. Due to methodological limitations in the studies reviewed, extensive evidence-based recommendations for the prevention and treatment of postpartum psychosis cannot be made. The known risk factors and negative consequences of postpartum psychosis point to the importance of preventative and acute treatment measures. Well-designed prospective studies are needed to determine the efficacy of prevention and treatment interventions for women who experience postpartum psychosis.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Postpartum Period / psychology*
  • Psychotic Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Psychotic Disorders / prevention & control*