Postnatal psychosis (also known as postpartum or puerperal psychosis) is a rare mental health condition that affects a small number of women (one or two in every 1000 mothers) in the first days or weeks after childbirth. For more really useful information on postpartum psychosis see the APP Network.
Postnatal psychosis is very serious as the mother may be at risk of harming herself or others, including her baby or other children. Recognising symptoms and seeking urgent professional assistance is essential.
Symptoms usually start quite suddenly within a few weeks after giving birth.
Postpartum psychosis can be an overwhelming and frightening experience for you and your loved ones, and it's important to seek help as soon as possible. With the right support, most women fully recover.
If you’re worried that yourself, or someone close to you may be suffering with postpartum psychosis, initially start by looking out for some of the symptoms listed below:
Mania: feeling over-excited, elated or 'high', active, energetic, not needing to sleep, feeling agitated, restlessness, and irritable, with a busy mind or racing thoughts.
Depressed or low mood or alternating rapidly between mood states.
Hallucinations - hearing voices, seeing things or smelling smells that other people cannot perceive.
Delusions - false beliefs that are firmly held, sometimes related to the baby, such as it is 'sent from God', or 'evil' in some way. Delusions, such as that the mother has won the lottery, that the TV or radio are referring to her, or that she has special healing powers, are not uncommon.
Confusion, rapid or muddled thinking.
A lack of insight - a woman experiencing this condition may be unaware that her behaviour is off in any way. Very often it will be other people who notice that she is behaving oddly and is not well.
Delusions can frequently be paranoid in nature. Mums may believe that everyone (especially hospital staff and/or loved ones) are trying to harm her and/or her baby.
Loss of inhibitions
Behaviour that is out of character
Feeling as if you are in a dream world
We know that talking about how you are feeling can often be very difficult, however, there is help out there. You do not have to feel like this. We hear that women often worry that they will be judged or seen to be ‘not coping’ - this is a common misconception. Health professionals such as your midwife or health visitor know how much postpartum psychosis can affect you during the perinatal period and they will be able to help support you through this.
Medication is an important part of the treatment for postpartum psychosis. It needs to be discussed with your GP and Specialist Perinatal Mental Health Team. Click here for further advice.
Need help now?
Further Services & Resources:
Local Specialist Perinatal Mental Health Team
Your local Health Visitor.
Content adapted from Beyond Blue.
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