Objective: To provide an overview of the current knowledge on the impact of motherhood on women with schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder.
Method: The published literature was selectively reviewed and assessed, based on a complete MEDLINE and PsychLIT (1971 to current) search, including English and non-English journals and books.
Results: Research to date into motherhood and schizophrenic illnesses has been limited by a number of methodological constraints, limiting the ability to draw conclusions and the prevention of relapses and mother-infant difficulties. These constraints have included: a paucity of prospective studies with initial, antenatal recruitment; variable definitions of the length of the puerperium; significant changes in psychiatric classification; the heterogeneity of postpartum psychotic disorders, with the majority being mood or schizoaffective disorder rather than schizophrenia; selection biases inherent in studying mother-baby unit inpatients; difficulties in life events research in general, such as its retrospective nature and confounding, illness factors; and the specificity versus non-specificity of childbirth as a unique or discrete life event.
Conclusions: Further study is required to explore: the impact of child care, parenting and having a partner on the course of women with schizophrenic and schizoaffective disorders during the first postpartum year; whether women with postpartum relapses of these mental illnesses are likely to have slower recoveries than those women with the same diagnoses but without young children; and protective factors against postpartum relapse.