Some women experience the symptoms of psychosis almost immediately after giving birth. An episode of psychosis following a birth of a baby can also be called Puerperal Psychosis or Postpartrum Psychosis.
Even though symptoms of postnatal psychosis can include depression, the illness itself is completely different to postnatal depression. Women can start to experience symptoms of postnatal psychosis between three and seven days after birth and it can start suddenly. This illness occurs in one in every one thousands births. It can be similar in some symptoms to bipolar disorder, and may take form of mania, severe depression with delusions, confusion or stupor, or rapid changes in mood between these extremes.
- Restless, excite or elated
- Unable to sleep
- Confused and disorientated
- Difficulty in relating to the environment or may fail to recognise friends or family.
- Unable to bond with baby
- Delusions or hallucinations
- Manic behaviour (e.g. cleaning at 3am)
- Mood swings from high to low
- Losing touch with reality
There is some evidence which shows that the condition can run in families which have previous history of mental health problems e.g. a diagnosis of bipolar disorder are at a higher risk of developing postnatal psychosis. However it can often appear with no warning and no specific cause. A number of factors may be a cause of postnatal psychosis, low self-esteem, lack of social and emotional support, feeling isolated and feeling inadequate as a mother.
Admission to a specialist Mother and Baby Unit, although these are not available in every area, the NHS can arrange a transfer to the nearest unit, allowing the best possible care for mother and child. It may be necessary to prescribe medication, to help treat postnatal psychosis, the mother may not be able to continue to breastfeed however seek advice from the consult psychiatrist to discuss the options. Mothers normally stay on the ward for around four to eight weeks depending on the symptoms; during this time nursing staff will help her build a relationship with her child. Mothers often feel detached from their child due to the symptoms of Postnatal Psychosis.
If a Mother and Baby Unit is not available, the Mother may stay on an Obstetrics Ward to be cared for. Mothers who experience Postnatal Psychosis will stay under care of the community mental health team after being discharged from the Mother and Baby Unit. Normally, with treatment, Mothers begin to feel well after several months.
You can find out more about Mother and Baby Units, as well as specialised perinatal mental health teams, at the Maternal Mental Health alliance website (of which PANDAS is a member). Click Here
It is important that you keep talking to friends and family around you, be honest about how you are feeling and let them help with everyday tasks, such as house work, cooking and caring for your child. After being discharge from a mother and baby unit or obstetrics ward, support groups for people suffering from postnatal depression may offer support, and allow you to be able to talk about your feelings in a safe and secure environment. Take a look at our PANDAS Support Groups.