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This study aimed to investigate mother–infant interaction and infant development in women at-risk of postpartum psychosis (PP), with and without a postpartum relapse.
103 women (and their offspring) were included, 43 at-risk-of-PP because of a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, schizoaffective disorder or previous PP, and 60 with no current/previous mental illness or family history of PP. Of the at-risk women, 18 developed a psychiatric relapse within 4 weeks after delivery (AR-unwell), while 25 remained symptom-free (AR-well). Mother–infant interaction was assessed using the CARE-Index at 8 weeks' and 12 months' postpartum and infant development using the Bayley-III at 12 months' postpartum.
Women at-risk-of-PP as a group, regardless of whether they developed a psychiatric relapse within 4 weeks after delivery, had less synchronous mother–infant interactions and had infants with less optimal cognitive, language, motor and socio-emotional development than healthy controls. In particular, boys of at-risk women had the lowest scores in cognitive, language and motor development and in mother–infant interaction, while girls of the at-risk women had the lowest scores in socio-emotional development. The synchrony in the dyad predicted infant cognitive and language development. There was no evidence for a difference in mother–infant interaction nor in infant development between the AR-unwell and AR-well groups.
These results suggest that, while there is a lack of evidence that an early postpartum relapse in women at-risk-of-PP could represent a risk for the infant per se, maternal risk for PP may be associated with less optimal mother–infant interaction and infant development.
Psychiatric mother and baby units (MBUs) are recommended for severe perinatal mental illness, but effectiveness compared with other forms of acute care remains unknown.
We hypothesised that women admitted to MBUs would be less likely to be readmitted to acute care in the 12 months following discharge, compared with women admitted to non-MBU acute care (generic psychiatric wards or crisis resolution teams (CRTs)).
Quasi-experimental cohort study of women accessing acute psychiatric care up to 1 year postpartum in 42 healthcare organisations across England and Wales. Primary outcome was readmission within 12 months post-discharge. Propensity scores were used to account for systematic differences between MBU and non-MBU participants. Secondary outcomes included assessment of cost-effectiveness, experience of services, unmet needs, perceived bonding, observed mother–infant interaction quality and safeguarding outcome.
Of 279 women, 108 (39%) received MBU care, 62 (22%) generic ward care and 109 (39%) CRT care only. The MBU group (n = 105) had similar readmission rates to the non-MBU group (n = 158) (aOR = 0.95, 95% CI 0.86–1.04, P = 0.29; an absolute difference of −5%, 95% CI −14 to 4%). Service satisfaction was significantly higher among women accessing MBUs compared with non-MBUs; no significant differences were observed for any other secondary outcomes.
We found no significant differences in rates of readmission, but MBU advantage might have been masked by residual confounders; readmission will also depend on quality of care after discharge and type of illness. Future studies should attempt to identify the effective ingredients of specialist perinatal in-patient and community care to improve outcomes.
Unique challenges have been faced by women in the perinatal period during the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact of this is compounded for women suffering from mental illness. This service evaluation looked at different aspects of the treatment pathway on a specialist inpatient psychiatric Mother and Baby Unit during the pandemic to identify what changes occurred.
Data were collected for all admissions to the unit between January 2019 and October 2020, with the beginning of the pandemic being defined as on or after 1st March 2020. Information was collected retrospectively from electronic clinical notes on ethnicity, length of stay, diagnosis, mental health act use and restrictive practice, medication, psychology, occupational therapy and social services involvement.
There were 114 admissions to the MBU during the study period. 4 were parenting assessments rather than acute psychiatric admissions and were excluded from the analysis, giving a sample of 110 women. 58% (62/110) were classed as “pre-pandemic” and 43.6% (48/110) were “during pandemic”. 95.45% (105/110) of women were postpartum 4.55% (5/110) were pregnant. Mean length of stay was shorter during the pandemic at 44 days, compared to 61 pre-pandemic. There was greater use of the mental health act during the pandemic: only 43.75% of patients were informal throughout admission, compared to 70.97% pre-pandemic. Mean duration of detention was shorter at 25 days (32 pre-pandemic). Psychotic illness made up a greater proportion of diagnoses during the pandemic: 56% (27/48) compared to 44% (27/62) pre-pandemic. The next most common diagnostic group was mood and anxiety disorders, which made up 29% (14/48) of diagnoses during the pandemic, but 43% (27/62) pre-pandemic. Outcomes as measured using the Health of the Nation Outcome Scale showed a mean improvement between admission and discharge of 6.65, compared to 5.15 pre-pandemic. HONOS scores were higher on admission during the pandemic (12.83, vs 10.88), suggesting a higher level of acuity.
During the COVID-19 pandemic on this Mother and Baby Unit, length of stay was shorter, a greater proportion of patients were detained under the mental health act (although length of detention was shorter) and psychotic illness was more prevalent. This study demonstrates that there were differences in this perinatal inpatient population during the pandemic and this may be a reflection on the wider impact of COVID-19 on perinatal mental health.
Postpartum psychosis (PP) is a severe postpartum disorder. While working memory and emotional processing-related brain function are consistently impaired in psychoses unrelated to the puerperium, no studies have investigated them in PP.
Twenty-four women at risk of developing PP (11 developed an episode – PE; 13 remained well – NPE) and 20 healthy postpartum women completed two functional magnetic resonance imaging tasks within a year of delivery: working memory (n-back) and emotional face recognition (fearful faces). We compared women at-risk of PP to controls, as well as NPE, PE, and controls to test for potential effects of a PP episode occurrence.
Women at-risk of PP and PE showed hyperactivation of lateral visual areas, precuneus, and posterior cingulate during the n-back task. The at-risk group as a whole, as well as the PE and NPE groups, showed hyperconnectivity of the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) with various parieto-occipito-temporo-cerebellar regions compared to controls during several n-back conditions. Increases in connectivity between the right DLPFC and ipsilateral middle temporal gyrus were observed in the PE group compared to NPE during 2-back. During the fearful faces task, at-risk women as a group showed hyperactivation of fronto-cingulo-subcortical regions, and hypoconnectivity between the left amygdala and ipsilateral occipito-parietal regions compared to controls. No significant performance differences were observed.
These results present preliminary evidence of a differential nature of functional brain abnormalities in PP compared to the typically observed reduced connectivity with the DLPFC in psychoses unrelated to puerperium, such as bipolar disorder.
Mother and Baby Units (MBUs) are usually preferred by patients and clinicians. Current provision is limited, although expansion is in progress. To ensure successful investment in services, outcome measurement is vital.
To describe maternal outcomes, mother–infant outcomes and their relationship in one MBU.
Paired maternal Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale (BPRS) scores, Health of the Nation Outcome Scales (HoNOS) scores and Crittenden CARE-Index (CCI) mother–infant interaction data were collected at admission and discharge.
There were significant improvements in BPRS (n = 152), HoNOS (n = 141) and CCI (n = 62) scores across diagnostic groups. Maternal BPRS scores and mother–infant interaction scores were unrelated. Improvement in maternal HoNOS scores was associated with improved maternal sensitivity and reduction in maternal unresponsiveness and infant passiveness.
Positive outcomes were achieved for mothers and babies across all diagnostic groups. Reduction in maternal symptoms, as measured by BPRS, does not necessarily confer improvement in mother–infant interaction. MBU treatment should focus on both maternal symptoms and mother–infant interaction.
This chapter explores how childbirth can contribute to the onset or exacerbation of psychiatric disorder, and discusses the relative contributions of aetiological factors, including biological, environmental and psychosocial factors. Women with mental health problems, unless supports are in place, will have difficulties in caring for their babies. These difficulties may result directly from the mother's illness, from secondary mother-child separations owing to early and recurrent hospitalizations, or from marital problems. Psychiatric disorders associated with childbirth are traditionally divided into three categories, reflecting severity: maternity blues, postnatal depression (PND) and postpartum psychosis. A survey of services for mentally ill mothers and their infants in the UK concluded that there were 'few comprehensive services with specialist knowledge of the impact of mental illness on the baby and older siblings, as well as on the infant's father'. The chapter presents a case example, which illustrates a number of aspects of a perinatal service.
Little is known about the availability and uptake of health and welfare services by women with postnatal depression in different countries.
Within the context of a cross cultural research study, to develop and test methods for undertaking quantitative health services research in postnatal depression.
Interviews with service planners and the collation of key health indicators were used to obtain a profile of service avail ability and provision. A service use questionnaire was developed and administered to a pilot sample in a number of European study centres.
Marked differences in service access and use were observed between the centres, including postnatal nursing care and contacts with primary care services. Rates of use of specialist services were generally low. Common barriers to access to care included perceived service quality and responsiveness. On the basis of the pilot work, a postnatal depression version of the Service Receipt Inventory was revised and finalised.
This preliminary study demonstrated the methodological feasibility of describing and quantifying service use, highlighted the varied and often limited use of care in this population, and indicated the need for an improved understanding of the resource needs and implications of postnatal depression.
Postnatal depression seems to be a universal condition with similar rates in different countries. However, anthropologists question the cross-cultural equivalence of depression, particularly at a life stage so influenced by cultural factors.
To develop a qualitative method to explore whether postnatal depression is universally recognised, attributed and described and to enquire into people's perceptions of remedies and services for morbid states of unhappiness within the context of local services.
The study took place in 15 centres in 11 countries and drew on three groups of informants: focus groups with new mothers, interview swith fathers and grandmothers, and interviews with health professionals. Textual analysis of these three groups was conducted separately in each centre and emergent themes compared across centres.
All centres described morbid unhappiness after childbirth comparable to postnatal depression but not all saw this as an illness remediable by health interventions.
Although the findings of this study support the universality of a morbid state of unhappiness following childbirth, they also support concerns about the cross-cultural equivalence of postnatal depression as an illness requiring the intervention of health professionals; this has implications for future research.
To date, no study has used standardised diagnostic assessment procedures to determine whether rates of perinatal depression vary across cultures.
To adapt the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM–IV Disorders (SCID) for assessing depression and other non-psychotic psychiatric illness perinatally and to pilot the instrument in different centres and cultures.
Assessments using the adapted SCID and the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale were conducted during the third trimester of pregnancy and at 6 months postpartum with 296 women from ten sites in eight countries. Point prevalence rates during pregnancy and the postnatal period and adjusted 6-month period prevalence rates were computed for caseness, depression and major depression.
The third trimester and 6-month point prevalence rates for perinatal depression were 6.9% and 8.0%, respectively. Postnatal 6-month period prevalence rates for perinatal depression ranged from 2.1% to 31.6% across centres and there were significant differences in these rates between centres.
Study findings suggest that the SCID was successfully adapted for this context. Further research on determinants of differences inprevalence of depression across cultures isneeded.
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