Postpartum Psychosis is an emergency crisis situation.
Call your doctor or 911.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Postpartum Psychosis is the most severe - and most rare - form of postpartum mood disorders.
Postpartum psychosis has a dramatic onset, usually appearing within days of delivery. Symptoms worsen two to four weeks after giving birth.
During the postpartum period, up to 85% of women experience some type of mood disturbance - typically transient and mild. Ten to fifteen percent of women experience postpartum depression.
Only 0.1-0.2% experience postpartum psychosis.
What Are The Risk Factors for Developing Postpartum Psychosis?
Women who already have a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, schizoaffective disorder, schizophrenia, or another psychotic illness are considered to be at a higher risk for developing postpartum psychosis.
If there is a family history of Bipolar Disorder or previous psychotic episode, this increases the risk of developing postpartum psychosis.
After one episode of postpartum psychosis, the risk for additional episodes of postpartum psychosis increases to 30-50%.
Can Postpartum Psychosis Be Prevented?
A woman who is at high risk for postpartum psychosis should ensure that her healthcare providers (midwife, obstetrician, primary care physician, mental health practitioner) are aware of her prior history of mental illness and diagnosis. This will enable them to prepare a care plan in advance. Knowing what triggers an episode of illness may help reduce the chance of the episode occurring.
In addition, women who are at high risk should try to reduce stress and get as much sleep as possible in late pregnancy and after the baby is born. As anyone knows, getting sleep with a newborn in the house is very difficult. If possible, partners or other family members should try to assist with night-time care of the infant so the mother can sleep.
What Are The Symptoms of Postpartum Psychosis?
A rapidly evolving manic or mixed episode with symptoms like restlessness and insomnia, irritability, rapidly shifting moods that alternate between depression and elation. Other symptoms can include emotional instability or beliefs the baby is defective or dying.
In addition, the mother may experience auditory hallucinations that instruct her to harm herself or the baby. Risk for suicide or infanticide are high (5%) if postpartum psychosis is left untreated.
What Is The Treatment For Postpartum Psychosis?
Postpartum Psychosis is a psychiatric EMERGENCY and must be treated immediately. Call 911 or your doctor.
The mother may not recognize that she has anything wrong with her, so it may be up to the family to insist upon proper psychiatric care. At no time should the mother be left alone with the child until it is determined that the mother is being properly treated and the mother and child are both safe. It is vital that there be a supportive network of family and friends to care for both the mother and the baby.
The mother should be thoroughly evaluated by a doctor both during the episode and for some time afterwards. Symptoms may reappear within a year or two postpartum.
Hospitalization may be required in order for the mother's treatment, particularly any medication regimens, to be properly administered and monitored.
Note: It is not uncommon for people to think the term postpartum schizophrenia is interchangeable with the diagnosis of postpartum psychosis. Postpartum schizophrenia is not a real diagnosis. Schizophrenia itself is a different diagnosis than psychosis. The disease of schizophrenia is treatable, but not curable. Postpartum psychosis, on the other hand, is both treatable and curable.
Postpartum Psychosis Resources:
The Royal College Of Psychiatrists in the UK provides comprehensive information about postpartum psychosis as well as recommendations for treatment.
Postpartum Progress: the most widely-read resource for women suffering postpartum mood disorders on the Internet. Amazing information, stories, and support.
Postpartum Support International: a list of local volunteers and coordinators that can provide support and information for women and their families suffering postpartum mood disorders.
Post Natal Depression and Puerperal Psychosis - resources for women and families in the UK, but includes information helpful to mothers and their partners worldwide.