Postpartum Psychosis is an episode of severe mental illness, which can occur very rapidly after a woman has given birth, even if they have no previous history of mental illness. The mother is most at risk of developing this illness in the first six weeks after she has given birth, but it can occur just hours after her baby is born.
Symptoms include: hallucinations; delusions; extremes of mood; racing thoughts; feeling very energetic or agitated; irritability; or problems sleeping. It’s a different illness to postnatal depression, both in terms of symptoms and severity.
Mothers may be worried that their baby might be taken away from them if they are suffering with this illness, but this very rarely happens. Instead, we offer support and treatment both for you and your family. If you suffer from Postpartum Psychosis, it is treatable and most women recover fully.
It is a rare illness, with about 1,400 mothers a year suffering – equal to one or two per thousand births. Because of its severity, Postpartum Psychosis is considered to be an emergency and if you, or a partner, daughter, sister or friend, experiences symptoms, it is important to seek help as soon as possible.
How to get support and advice
You can speak to your GP, midwife or health visitor if you are experiencing mental health issues either during pregnancy or after birth.
Let’s Talk offers support for anyone experiencing mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety. Ring 0800 073 2200 or visit www.talkghc.nhs.uk
Action on Postpartum Psychosis (APP) is a specialist support network, offering support and advice. www.app-network.org
MIND is a mental health charity, which offers information and support to people experiencing mental health problems. www.mind.org.uk
PANDAS support anyone, including fathers and partners, suffering from pre (antenatal) and postnatal illnesses, including postpartum psychosis. Their helpline is open from 9am-8pm (including weekends) on 0843 2898401 or visit www.pandasfoundation.org.uk
By Dr Sally Morgan, Consultant Psychiatrist at 2gether NHS Foundation Trust