Clinical Characteristics of Perinatal Psychiatric Patients: A Chart Review Study

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Although postpartum depression and other perinatal disorders have been the subject of increased research attention, important questions remain regarding women who actively seek psychiatric treatment during pregnancy and the postpartum period. In this study, we examined clinical records of 500 perinatal psychiatric patients who received treatment in a psychiatric day hospital (N = 398) or outpatient behavioral health clinic (N = 102). Patients’ presenting diagnoses, psychiatric history, treatment course, and depressive symptoms were recorded. The majority of women had major depression as their primary diagnosis, with an average Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale score of over 20. Many depressed patients were diagnosed with comorbid anxiety and substance abuse disorders. Although most women were willing to take psychotropic medications, a sizable minority were not, particularly those who were breast-feeding. For more than a third of the sample, the treatment sought while pregnant or postpartum represented their first contact with the mental health system. Treatment implications are discussed.

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