Most of the research about women with psychotic disorders in the perinatal period focuses on women with schizophrenia. Bipolar Disorder may also present with psychotic features in either a major depressive episode or a manic episode.
It is common for women with Schizophrenia to become pregnant and because of the condition, additional care is required. There are some particular risks associated with schizophrenia for both the woman and her baby, which may include:
- The woman seeks prenatal care late in pregnancy or not at all.
- If her mental health disorder is not being treated, she may engage in unhealthy or risky behaviours for her and the developing fetus.
- Premature birth, low birth weight and obstetric complications.
- The woman’s mental health symptoms may make it difficult for her to bond with her baby.
- Attachment difficulties may lead to developmental problems for the baby.
Psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia are not preventable. However, the risks and impacts of schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders during the perinatal period can be successfully managed. This is best achieved if a woman previously diagnosed with a psychotic disorder such as schizophrenia is offered pre-conception counselling so that she is as stable as possible on becoming pregnant. Her care throughout pregnancy and the postpartum period can be carefully planned and managed, with her involvement and agreement. See Treatment in this section for further information.
If the woman has been previously undiagnosed or she suffers a first psychotic episode when pregnant or postpartum, she should be immediately assessed. A psychotic episode in the perinatal period can be a psychiatric and obstetrical emergency.