Researchers from Denmark announced that women diagnosed with severe psychiatric conditions such as postpartum depression after giving birth are likely to be diagnosed with bipolar disorder later in life.

Although postpartum depression is relatively common, severe depression and related psychiatric disorders that require clinical care happens in about one in 1,000 moms, lead researcher Trine Munk-Olsen of Aarhus University noted.

“The severe episodes are rare, but they are serious episodes and of course, they should be taken seriously. You want these women to get help, no doubt,” Ms. Munk-Olsen said.

Bipolar disorder involves alternating mood swings from severe depression to overexcitement, happiness and emphatically energized. This condition is treated with medications such as mood stabilizers or with talk therapy.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 6 percent of the US population experience bipolar disorder at some point, which usually manifests during early childhood.

Prior studies hinted that giving birth was the trigger for bipolar disorder. However, only a few women were diagnosed with the condition weeks after delivery. The researchers hypothesized that severe psychiatric episode could be a symptom of bipolar disorder.

“It is likely that some of the women were misdiagnosed—we cannot rule that out. But it is likely that some of the women develop bipolar over time,” Ms. Munk-Olsen said.

Dr. Verinder Sharma concurs with Ms. Munk-Olsen’s theory. Factors such as changes in hormone levels and sleep loss might trigger bipolar symptoms, which could be mistaken as depression or anxiety, the obstetrician and gynecologist from the University of Western Ontario in Canada said.


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