Population-Based Assessment of the Recurrence Risk of Postpartum Mental Disorders: Will It Happen Again? | Pregnancy | JAMA Psychiatry | JAMA Network
[Skip to Navigation]
Sign In
Figure.  Cumulative Incidence of Postpartum Mental Disorders After Liveborn Deliveries in Women With Histories of Postpartum Mental Disorders, 1997-2015
Cumulative Incidence of Postpartum Mental Disorders After Liveborn Deliveries in Women With Histories of Postpartum Mental Disorders, 1997-2015

PPMD indicates postpartum mental disorder.

Limit 200 characters
Limit 25 characters
Conflicts of Interest Disclosure

Identify all potential conflicts of interest that might be relevant to your comment.

Conflicts of interest comprise financial interests, activities, and relationships within the past 3 years including but not limited to employment, affiliation, grants or funding, consultancies, honoraria or payment, speaker's bureaus, stock ownership or options, expert testimony, royalties, donation of medical equipment, or patents planned, pending, or issued.

Err on the side of full disclosure.

If you have no conflicts of interest, check "No potential conflicts of interest" in the box below. The information will be posted with your response.

Not all submitted comments are published. Please see our commenting policy for details.

Limit 140 characters
Limit 3600 characters or approximately 600 words
    Research Letter
    October 16, 2019

    Population-Based Assessment of the Recurrence Risk of Postpartum Mental Disorders: Will It Happen Again?

    Author Affiliations
    • 1The National Center for Register-based Research, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark
    • 2Centre for Integrated Register-Based Research, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark
    • 3The Lundbeck Foundation Initiative for Integrative Psychiatric Research, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark
    JAMA Psychiatry. 2020;77(2):213-214. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2019.3208

    Postpartum mental disorders (PPMDs) are serious conditions ranging in prevalence, incidence, and severity. The disorders are mainly observed in women who are primiparous,1 and mothers with a history of PPMDs are understandably concerned about risk of recurrence after successive deliveries. In this study, we aimed to (1) examine the risk of a mental disorder in the postpartum period by parity and (2) provide an overview of the recurrence risk of PPMDs in affected women after subsequent deliveries.


    We conducted a population-based cohort study using data from the Danish Medical Birth Registry,2 the Danish Psychiatric Central Research Register,3 the Danish National Prescription Registry,4 and the Danish Civil Registration System. We identified 414 673 women aged 15 to 45 years with a first live birth (or births) from January 1997 through December 2015 who had no recorded previous psychiatric disorders at the time of the delivery, as identified through the International Classification of Diseases, Eighth Revision codes 290 through 315 and Tenth Revision codes F00 through F99 or redeemed prescriptions for psychotropic medications (International Anatomical Therapeutic Chemical Classification codes N05 and N06).

    The study was approved by the Danish Data Protection Agency. In Denmark, no informed consent is required for a register-based study that relies exclusively on deidentified data.

    Postpartum mental disorders were defined within 6 months after the index delivery by inpatient or outpatient treatment for psychiatric disorders, excluding psychoactive substance misuse and mental retardation (primary diagnosis with any code from the entire F chapter of International Classification of Diseases, Tenth Revision codes, excluding codes F10 through F19 and F70 through F79) or redeemed prescription for psychotropic medications. The cumulative incidence of PPMDs for first, second, and third deliveries was estimated using the command stcompet in Stata version 15.0 (StataCorp), as previously described by Coviello and Boggess.5 This method accounts for competing risk from emigration and death. Data analysis took place from April 2019 to July 2019.


    Among women in the study population with no previous postpartum psychiatric history, the cumulative incidence of PPMDs was 1.0% (95% CI, 1.0%-1.1%) for first parity (4328 of 414 673). It was 1.6% (95% CI, 1.6%-1.7%) for second parity (4691 of 291 304) and 2.0% (95% CI, 1.9%-2.1%) for third parity (1584 of 80 230).

    After the second delivery, the recurrence risk of a postpartum psychiatric episode for women who had PPMDs after their first delivery was 25.5% (95% CI, 23.8%-27.2%; 642 of 2536). After the third delivery, the recurrence risk was 56.8% (95% CI, 46.8%-65.6%; 60 of 106) for women who had PPMDs in the 2 previous postpartum periods (Figure).


    Interpretation of these results should consider the selection processes, study design, and definition of PPMDs. Women with PPMDs after first delivery may be less likely to have subsequent childbirths, and recurrence risks of PPMDS will consequently be influenced by the overall reproduction patterns in this group of women. We defined PPMDs through treatment records, including specialty care treatment and psychotropic drug prescriptions, and we consequently cannot generalize these results to women with milder, untreated cases of PPMDs or PPMDs treated with psychotherapy. The PPMD definition furthermore identified a group of women with severe PPMDs, which explains differences in overall incidences compared with other studies.6

    These findings do not support the existing evidence that the risk of PPMDs is highest among women who are primiparous.1 If replicated, this result directly influences clinical practice in identifying women at risk for PPMDs and calls for discussions about selection and how overall reproduction rates can have influenced previous findings. Furthermore, we found that 1 in 4 women with PPMDs after first delivery will have a subsequent episode after the second delivery, and more than 1 in 2 women with PPMDs after both the first and second deliveries will have a subsequent episode after a third delivery. In conclusion, the recurrence risks of postpartum mental disorders are substantial and concerning. This information should be disseminated to clinicians and women with a history of these disorders, as well as considered in clinical practice for both prevention and treatment planning.

    Back to top
    Article Information

    Corresponding Author: Trine Munk-Olsen, PhD, The National Centre for Register-Based Research, University of Aarhus, Fuglesangs Allé 26, Aarhus V 8210, Denmark (tmo@econ.au.dk).

    Published Online: October 16, 2019. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2019.3208

    Author Contributions: Dr Liu had full access to all of the data in the study and takes responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis.

    Concept and design: Munk-Olsen, Ingstrup, Liu.

    Acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data: All authors.

    Drafting of the manuscript: Munk-Olsen.

    Critical revision of the manuscript for important intellectual content: All authors.

    Statistical analysis: Liu.

    Obtained funding: Munk-Olsen.

    Supervision: Johannsen.

    Other: Ingstrup.

    Conflict of Interest Disclosures: None reported.

    Funder/Support: Dr Munk-Olsen reports support from the Lundbeck Foundation Initiative for Integrative Psychiatric Research (grant R155-2014-1724) and Fabrikant Vilhelm Pedersen og Hustrus Mindelegat during the conduct of the study. Dr Ingstrup is supported by Aarhus Universitets Forsknings Fond NOVA (grant AUFF-E 2016-9-25). Dr Johannsen receives funding from the Graduate School of Health of Aarhus University and Fabrikant Vilhelm Pedsersen og Hustrus Mindelegat. Dr Liu is supported by the Danish Council for Independent Research (grant DFF-5053-00156B).

    Role of the Funder/Sponsor: The funders had no role in the design and conduct of the study; collection, management, analysis, and interpretation of the data; preparation, review, or approval of the manuscript; and decision to submit the manuscript for publication.

    Meltzer-Brody  S, Howard  LM, Bergink  V,  et al.  Postpartum psychiatric disorders.  Nat Rev Dis Primers. 2018;4:18022. doi:10.1038/nrdp.2018.22PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
    Bliddal  M, Broe  A, Pottegård  A, Olsen  J, Langhoff-Roos  J.  The Danish Medical Birth Register.  Eur J Epidemiol. 2018;33(1):27-36. doi:10.1007/s10654-018-0356-1PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
    Mors  O, Perto  GP, Mortensen  PB.  The Danish Psychiatric Central Research Register.  Scand J Public Health. 2011;39(7)(suppl):54-57. doi:10.1177/1403494810395825PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
    Pottegård  A, Schmidt  SAJ, Wallach-Kildemoes  H, Sørensen  HT, Hallas  J, Schmidt  M.  Data resource profile: the Danish National Prescription Registry.  Int J Epidemiol. 2017;46(3):798-798f.PubMedGoogle Scholar
    Coviello  V, Boggess  M.  Cumulative incidence estimation in the presence of competing risks.  Stata J. 2004;4:103-112. doi:10.1177/1536867X0400400201Google ScholarCrossref
    Howard  LM, Molyneaux  E, Dennis  CL, Rochat  T, Stein  A, Milgrom  J.  Non-psychotic mental disorders in the perinatal period.  Lancet. 2014;384(9956):1775-1788. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(14)61276-9PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref