Recent guidelines on perinatal mental health highlight the need to predict, detect and prevent mental illness in childbearing women, but there are a limited number of studies in this field. This study describes the characteristics of 277 service users newly referred to a specialist community perinatal mental health service over 1 year, and discusses the implications for effective management of mental illness related to childbearing.
The most common diagnosis was affective disorder (51%), of which 8% had bipolar affective disorder. Almost three in five women had previous non-pregnancy-related psychiatric contact and a fourth had previous ante/postnatal psychiatric contact. More than half were on medication at conception, most commonly antidepressants (43%).
This study highlights the opportunities for identifying women at high risk of postnatal mental illness and the need for adequate pregnancy planning advice for women taking psychotropic medication.
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