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Understanding Postpartum Psychosis

Understanding Postpartum Psychosis

If you’re a new mum, postpartum psychosis is a possibility, and something that affects many women each year. This article will explore more about this condition, some of its predominant symptoms, how it can affect your baby, and what you can do to help resolve it.

Recognizing postpartum psychosis

From the outset, it’s important to distinguish between postnatal depression, which is relatively common, and postpartum psychosis, which is much more rare: only 1 to 2 in 1,000 new mums face postpartum psychosis. While researchers aren’t positive about what causes it, many have theorized that it is related to the abrupt change in hormones during pregnancy.

It can look and feel similar to PTSD, and is a serious mental health concern that cannot be overlooked. For a woman with tokophobia in pregnancy, or a fear of childbirth, postpartum psychosis is a serious future risk.

In postpartum depression, a new mum might feel sad, overwhelmed, anxious, uninterested in life, and so on. It’s possible for up to half of new mums to go through postpartum depression.

But as an extension of this, a newborn can bring about a more serious mental disorder in a new mum called postpartum psychosis, which is significantly different and more intense than postpartum depression.

Postpartum psychosis can come on suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere. While it can start immediately, it usually comes a few weeks after birth.

With postpartum psychosis, a new mum might feel things like delusions, hallucinations, agitation, anxiety or confusion, mood swings, insomnia, a sense of being detached from your baby, and so on.

Costs is not always easy by yourself, which is why it's important to have other people involved, even well before giving birth.

If during your pregnancy you experience things like significant mood swings, insomnia, paranoia, and the like, this may put you at much greater risk for postpartum psychosis, especially if your pregnancy was unplanned or this is your first baby.

If a new mum has been diagnosed as bipolar and has stopped taking medications, this also can be a contributing factor and significant risk for developing postpartum psychosis. Typically, but not always, postpartum psychosis is associated with bipolar disorder. 

Symptoms of postpartum psychosis


Let's dive deeper into some of the common symptoms of postpartum psychosis. It can be difficult to notice these symptoms in oneself, which is why it's important to have a caring circle of friends and family involved to be able to correctly identify the symptoms. It's also important to talk to a doctor and have them involved in your pregnancy as much as possible.

Hallucinations and delusions

Hallucinations have to do with sensory experiences that aren’t real, but nonetheless feel real. During a hallucination, a mother might see, hear, and even touch, taste, or smell things that are not real, although they feel real to her.

Hallucinations can be brought on seemingly at random, and can occur without warning or prompting. Obviously, hallucinations can make it very difficult to distinguish what's real from what's not real, which is why it's crucially important for new mothers to have other people involved in the early stages of their new motherhood.

Similar to a hallucination, a delusion is a condition in which a new mother is led to believe something is real when it isn't. An example of a delusion might include a new mother thinking that someone is trying to take away her baby, someone is trying to kidnap her, and things like these. Similar to a hallucination, a delusion can feel very real and create genuine fear and panic, even if it is not rooted in reality whatsoever.

Mood changes

A new mum might experience sharp mood changes as part of postpartum psychosis. While many people without postpartum psychosis experience mood changes, these particular mood changes are severe, abrupt, and unpredictable. Small and relatively meaningless circumstances like a light being left on in an unoccupied room might trigger a mood change, which can throw a new mum into a radically different set of emotions.

Confusion and suspicion

Postpartum psychosis can cause a new mum to feel a sense of not knowing who she is, where she is, or having any situational awareness. This kind of confusion can be scary, as it can happen without warning, and create significant disorientation. 

Sometimes people with postpartum psychosis might also experience suspicion, or an irrational fear of other people's motives. Someone with postpartum psychosis might assume the worst intentions of others and irrationally distance themselves from others out of fear and suspicion that is ungrounded.

How can it affect your baby?

With postpartum psychosis, a woman might feel overprotective of her baby, and in some cases a desire to harm her baby, which is why there may be a need to temporarily separate a woman from her baby to allow her to receive treatment. In postpartum psychosis a woman is not in a healthy state of mind to fulfill the tasks of motherhood.

When and where can you seek help?

If there are any signs and symptoms of postpartum psychosis, it's important to immediately seek help from a trained mental health professional, as well as potential psychiatric care and treatment. It's important to do these things immediately so that correct measures might be taken to protect both the baby and the mother, to prescribe any medications that may be necessary, and to receive institutional treatment if necessary.