The diagnostic issues, classification, incidence, genetic factors, and theories of etiology of psychiatric illness associated with childbirth are reviewed. Psychologic influences, psychosocial factors and the concept of biologic maladaptation associated with prospective motherhood are discussed.
Postpartum mental distress is not a unitary phenomenon. The physiology of the puerperium is thus not a cause in itself of any of the symptoms, but rather must be regarded as a contributing or triggering factor acting upon an underlying predisposition.
Clinical research of postpartum psychiatric syndromes (PPS) and animal behavior studies are inconclusive.
It is suggested that major neuroendocrine research strategies currently used in studying affective disorders and schizophrenia should be applied in studying PPS.