Cardiff University joins global research effort to learn more about postpartum psychosis
12 September 2023
Research into maternal mental health has historically been conducted in high-income Western countries which is something researchers at Cardiff University are aiming to challenge with the help of the International Postpartum Psychosis Consortium.
For years we have relied on research coming from a very small number of mainly Western countries.
This raises a lot of issues, including a lack of diversity which means it is not clear whether research results are applicable to everyone in the world.
Even in cases where mental health research has been conducted in a variety of countries, it is not always clear whether the condition itself is consistent across these places.
As an example, previous research led by Professor Arianna Di Florio on postpartum depression has shown that even between Europe and America, which are often considered to be similar, women may report their symptoms in slightly different ways.
Therefore, we cannot be sure our research is reliable if we do not know if the condition we are studying is the same across countries.
This is particularly true for a condition like postpartum psychosis which has been historically under-researched, despite it being the most severe maternal mental illness that we know of.
Recent work led by researchers in the Division of Psychological Medicine and Clinical Neurosciences at Cardiff University has tried to address these issues by collaborating with colleagues based at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences in Bengaluru, India and the Kamuzu University of Health Sciences in Blantyre, Malawi.
Together, we spoke to women with lived experience of postpartum psychosis, their families, and healthcare professionals who work closely in this area.
We asked them about the symptoms they associated with postpartum psychosis, its typical development, and the labels they would use to describe their episode.
What did we find out?
We found that there were a lot of similarities in how postpartum psychosis presents across these three countries. People seem to present with similar symptoms, found similar treatments to be helpful, and reported similar consequences of an episode.
We worked together to understand the condition from the point of view of the experts and develop a list of research priorities for the future that will be beneficial to people across all three countries.
This work will help us to continue with our research into this area with the confidence that what we are doing is patient-informed and worthwhile.
It’s also important that understanding of the condition we are studying is consistent enough across cultures to conduct cross-cultural research.
Take part in research
With the input of our stakeholders, we have also developed a postpartum psychosis research assessment tool which is now being used to help us conduct even more research into postpartum psychosis.
This study, which is being run with the help of the National Centre of Mental Health (NCMH) will be used to help better understand the genetic and environmental risk factors of postpartum psychosis.
Read the full paper, 'Postpartum psychosis: a public involvement perspective across three continents'.