Postpartum Psychosis is a severe mental illness, which has a sudden onset in the first few weeks following childbirth. Over 1300 women experience PP each year in the UK (1 to 2 in every 1000 deliveries – also in the Netherlands it’s 1 or 2 on every 1000 deliveries). These episodes can be very frightening for women, their
partners, friends and family. It can be hard to find high quality information about PP. There are many unanswered questions and areas where much more research is needed.
For this post, our guest writer is Naomi Gilbert. Naomi lives in Devon, UK with her husband and two daughters. She works for a mental health charity and enjoys swimming in the sea in her spare time! She is a trustee of Action on Postpartum Psychosis.
8 years ago I was in the rosy glow of the maternity ward, delighting in the soft hair of my newborn baby girl. Life seemed utterly perfect. Little did I know that within ten days I would be separated from my baby and admitted to a general psychiatric hospital, convinced that I was a female Messiah who had been tasked with bringing about the end of the world.
‘Little did I know’ is one of the key things women and families say about postpartum psychosis when they reflect on the experience. Half of all cases happen to women who have no previous history of mental health problems. Coupled with the lack of almost any information about postpartum psychosis in antenatal classes, midwifery appointments or pregnancy books, the vast majority of women are hit completely out of the blue.
Nowadays, as a trustee of the charity Action on Postpartum Psychosis
my mission is to change this. We believe that all families should be educated about the early warning signs of postpartum psychosis during the antenatal period so that they can seek help quickly. We also believe that all women should have the option to be treated along with their baby in specialized Mother and Baby Units
. Sadly, across Europe these facilities are few and far between – in my case the nearest unit would be a 2 hour drive from home.
Postpartum psychosis is often confused with postnatal depression, however there are some key differences. The early warning signs of postpartum psychosis are often the opposite of ‘the baby blues’ – many mothers feel very energetic, find it almost impossible to sleep and become highly talkative. These symptoms often appear very soon after the baby is born, usually within 1-2 weeks. Postpartum psychosis requires urgent medical treatment, as symptoms can worsen very quickly, with women experiencing hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that are not there) and delusions (believing things that are not true, for example that they are under surveillance, or that they have special powers).
Postpartum psychosis is one of the most rapid and severe psychotic illnesses seen in clinical practice, however with rapid treatment is also has the best outcomes, Mothers who are treated quickly with medication and enabled to stay with their baby are very likely to make a full recovery.
I personally made a full recovery and went on to have another baby five years later. I had excellent support during pregnancy from a specialist team, and we worked together to plan prevention including medication and plenty of rest. I now have the privilege of supporting other mothers and families going through postpartum psychosis. Thanks to Big Lottery funding, our charity is able to support anyone affected by postpartum psychosis through our online forum https://healthunlocked.com/app-network
I am really pleased that originalmama.com
wants to raise awareness of this often-hidden condition. I believe the more we know, the better we can prevent and treat postpartum psychosis and this gives me hope for the future. I know that when my two daughters have their own babies, they won’t have to say ‘little did I know’…
Postpartum psychosis is temporary and treatable with professional help, but it is an emergency and it is essential that you receive immediate help.
a few more sites about this: