Postnatal psychosis is a worldwide life-threatening condition that affects one to two in every 1000 new mothers. It has an abrupt onset within a month of childbirth. Affected new mothers rapidly develop frank psychosis, cognitive impairment, and disorganised behaviours. Factors that increase the risk of postnatal psychosis include primiparous mothers who are single, women who are older, or with a past psychiatric history and family history of affective psychosis, prenatal depression and autoimmune thyroid dysfunction. The risk of a future postnatal recurrence is 25% to 57%. Preventive interventions for postnatal psychosis aim at identifying women with risk factors, early recognition of imminent psychosis through screening, and preventive drug therapy. Mood stabilisers, antipsychotic drugs and hormone therapy may be beneficial in the prevention of postnatal psychotic episodes in women at risk.
To investigate the best available evidence for interventions aimed at preventing postnatal psychosis.
We searched the Cochrane Schizophrenia Group Trials Register and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) in October 2012 using the search strategy of the Cochrane Schizophrenia Group.Selection criteria: All randomised controlled trials relevant to the prevention of postnatal psychosis.
Data collection and analysis:
Two review authors inspected all citations to ensure reliable selection. If we had included relevant trials, we planned to assess the methodological quality of identified trials using the criteria recommended in the Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions. Two review authors would have independently extracted data. For homogenous dichotomous data, we planned to calculate the risk ratio (RR), 95% confidence interval (CI), and the number needed to treat to benefit/harm (NNTB/NNTH) on an intention-to-treat basis.
There are no included studies in this review. The electronic search produced three relevant references, among which we identified two old planned trials that seem never to have started, and one which we excluded a study because it was a report of a case series.
This is not an empty review - it is a review full of unanswered questions. Despite growing interest in women?s mental health, the literature in the area of postnatal psychosis is still very limited. It seems that clinicians have no choice but to continue with their current practices guided solely by varied clinical judgement. Women at risk of postnatal psychosis and their relatives are justified to be disappointed in the medical/research fraternity. A post hoc PubMed topic (not methodology-specific) search identified mainly case series. Policy makers have no trial-based evidence upon which to base their guidelines. Certainly, preventive interventions for postnatal psychosis are difficult to justify with confidence without well-designed, well-conducted, and well-reported randomised studies. Available publications suggest that such studies are possible and funders of research may wish to make this work a priority.
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