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Bipolar Women are more likely to Give Birth Prematurely, Study Finds

Update Date: Nov 03, 2014 04:15 PM EST

Women who have been hospitalized for bipolar disorder have an increased risk of giving birth to premature babies, a new study found. The researchers from the Women's College Hospital and the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) calculated that the risk of preterm birth increased by 50 percent.

"Bipolar disorder is the sixth leading cause of disability among women of reproductive age and yet research tells us very little about how to ensure the best possible outcomes for mothers and babies," said Dr. Simone Vigod, lead author of the study, psychiatrist at Women's College Hospital and scientist at ICES, reported by Medical Xpress. "Knowing the potential impact it may have, as well as any modifiable risk factors, will help us as doctors provide the best treatment possible for our patients."

The team analyzed health records of women who gave birth to a single child between 2003 and 2011. They found that women who had been hospitalized for bipolar disorder were two times more likely than women without a history of mental health illness to give birth to a premature infant. Infants born to mothers with bipolar disorder had a greater risk of congenital malformations as well as other health complications. Due to these complications, these infants were more likely to be readmitted to the hospital within 28 days of discharge.

When the team compared mental illnesses, they found that women with bipolar disorders had infants with a larger than average size for their gestational age whereas women with depression had infants that had a smaller than average size.

"Outcomes like preterm birth are concerning, because they are known to negatively impact health in childhood and later adulthood," stated 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."

The study, "Perinatal outcomes among women with bipolar disorder: A population-based cohort study," was published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

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