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date: 22 June 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Much research has focused on understanding why women are at increased risk of serious mental health symptoms during pregnancy and the postpartum. Although psychosocial stressors play a major role in perinatal psychiatric disorders, not every woman who experiences adverse psychosocial circumstances develops a major psychiatric illness during this time. As such, attention has focused on exploring how biological factors might impact the development of perinatal psychopathology. This chapter reviews biological changes during pregnancy and the postpartum that may contribute to the onset and/or exacerbation of psychiatric symptoms and disorders in the perinatal period. It discusses heritability and genetics research suggesting that some women may have a biological predisposition to developing psychopathology in the perinatal period. Then, the chapter focuses on pregnancy- and childbirth-related biological changes in sex hormones; the neurotransmitter, endocrine, and immune systems; and sleep that may be contributing biological factors in perinatal psychopathology for women at risk.

Keywords: postpartum depression, postpartum psychosis, genetics, sex hormones, etiology

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