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Keywords:

  • antidepressant drugs;
  • atypical neuroleptics;
  • bipolar disorder;
  • lithium;
  • postpartum depression;
  • postpartum psychosis;
  • rapid cycling

Objectives:  This paper discusses the effect of antidepressant use on the illness course in three women who were treated for first-onset postpartum depression (PPD) following childbirth.

Methods:  A report of three cases of early-onset PPD in which bipolarity manifested following antidepressant treatment.

Results:  There was no past history of psychiatric disturbance but in each case there was a family history of bipolar (BP) disorder. Treatment with antidepressants resulted in a highly unstable illness course characterized by a mixed episode, cycle acceleration, and a postpartum psychosis. However, discontinuation of antidepressants and institution of treatment with mood stabilizers and atypical neuroleptics resulted in sustained improvement and symptom remission.

Conclusions:  Caution is urged in the use of antidepressants to treat early-onset PPD in women at risk for developing BP disorder due to a family history of bipolar illness.