Publication Date


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Academic Program

Clinical and Population Health Research, MD/PhD


Psychiatry; Population and Quantitative Health Sciences

First Thesis Advisor

Dr. Nancy Byatt


bipolar disorder, affective disorders, depression, perinatal, pregnancy, postpartum, perinatal mental health, maternal mental health, mental health services, health services research, access to care



Bipolar disorder (BD) is a significant cause of perinatal morbidity and mortality. Because BD is hard to detect and treat, these individuals often go without care. This dissertation was designed to: (1) identify the prevalence rates of BD and bipolar-spectrum mood episodes in perinatal individuals, (2) understand pertinent barriers to mental healthcare, and (3) elucidate how to bridge healthcare gaps.


Data sources included: primary qualitative and quantitative data from obstetric clinicians, encounter data from Massachusetts Child Psychiatry Access Program (MCPAP) for Moms, a program aimed at helping clinicians to provide mental healthcare to perinatal patients. Analyses included: descriptive statistics, systematic review and meta-analysis, qualitative data analyses, longitudinal regression analyses, and group-based trajectory modeling.


The prevalence of BD in perinatal individuals was 2.6% (95% CI: 1.2 to 4.5%). Twenty to 54.9% were found to have a bipolar-spectrum mood episode. Barriers to mental healthcare for perinatal patients with BD included the paucity of psychiatric resources, difficulties in assessing BD, and stigma towards pharmacotherapy. Obstetric clinicians reported that MCPAP for Moms has helped them feel more comfortable in treating patients with BD. Longitudinal analyses of encounter data corroborated these findings - utilization of the program predicted increased clinician capacity to treat BD.


Clinicians for perinatal individuals are being called upon and stepping up to care for complex illnesses like BD. Programs like MCPAP for Moms can help them feel more confident in this role, helping to bridge gaps in perinatal mental healthcare and ensuring that individuals with BD are able to receive appropriate care.



Rights and Permissions

Copyright is held by the author, with all rights reserved.

Available for download on Thursday, April 13, 2023