Background: The nosological status of postpartum psychoses has remained controversial because of their often 'atypical' symptomatology. A polydiagnostic approach may further clarify this issue.
Methods: In a retrospective study, we applied the ICD-10 and Leonhard's classification to 39 patients with severe postpartum psychiatric disorders. The patients were personally reexamined on average 12.5 years (6-26 years) after the onset of the illness.
Results: An acute onset and a polymorphous psychotic symptomatology with rapid changes characterized the majority of our cases. Unipolar depressive disorders (28%) and acute polymorphous psychotic disorders (21%) represented the largest proportions within the ICD-10-classification. Applying Leonhard's classification, over half the patients (54%) suffered from a cycloid psychosis. Among cycloid psychoses, motility psychoses clearly predominated. Schizophrenias occurred rarely (10%) according to both classifications.
Limitations: Due to the unknown prevalence of the various diagnoses among women of child-bearing age, it is impossible to statistically infer a specific association between childbirth and a distinct diagnosis from our data.
Conclusions: 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.