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Women with bipolar disorder twice as likely to have preterm babies

December 2014

Dr. Simone VigodBipolar disorder is the sixth leading cause of disability among women of reproductive age. Although many women with bipolar disorder become mothers, little is known about their pregnancy outcomes.

A study led by Dr. Simone Vigod, psychiatrist and scientist at Women’s College Hospital, provides new information that will help clinicians optimize the health of women with bipolar disorder and their babies.

Her study included more than 1,800 women with bipolar disorder and found that they are nearly twice as likely to have premature babies compared to women without a history of mental illness.

“Outcomes like preterm birth are concerning because they are known to negatively impact health in childhood and later adulthood,” said Dr. Vigod. “While we don’t know the exact cause of preterm birth and other negative outcomes, we do know mental health symptoms can promote the secretion of stress hormones that can lead to preterm birth.”

Dr. Vigod and her team also found that babies born to women with bipolar disorder were more likely to be large for their gestational age, to have higher rates of congenital malformations and other complications, and to be readmitted to hospital within 28 days of discharge.

The findings were published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

“Our study suggests that women with bipolar disorder could benefit from closer monitoring during pregnancy,” says Dr. Vigod. “Our findings also support the need for interventions that can improve maternal mental and physical health before and during pregnancy.”

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