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Childbirth and prevention of bipolar disorder: an opportunity for change
journal contributionposted on 2019-09-01, 00:00 authored by Verinder Sharma, Veerle Bergink, Michael BerkMichael Berk, Prabha S Chandra, Trine Munk-Olsen, Adele C Viguera, Lakshmi N Yatham
The recent conceptualisation of bipolar disorder as a neuroprogressive illness has highlighted the potential importance of prevention and early intervention in high-risk populations. Undiagnosed bipolar disorder early in the disease course is associated with adverse clinical outcomes and impaired functioning for patients, which in turn has economic consequences. Despite the mounting evidence that childbirth is one of the most potent and specific triggers of manic symptoms, studies are not available on the effectiveness of targeted interventions in the prevention of bipolar disorder in women who have recently given birth. In this Personal View, we describe the clinical characteristics of women at risk of developing bipolar disorder after childbirth, before discussing opportunities for prevention and early intervention and outlining challenges in the assessment and management of women at risk of transitioning to bipolar disorder after childbirth. Existing evidence, although scarce, supports a clinical staging model by which at-risk women are managed with a variety of behavioural and pharmacological interventions aimed at preventing bipolar disorder. Close monitoring and early intervention might reduce the risk of hypomanic or manic symptoms in women at risk of developing bipolar disorder after childbirth; however, the potential benefits of early identification and intervention need to be carefully balanced against the additional risks for affected women.