Postpartum psychosis is a rare but serious mental illness that can occur in the days or weeks after giving birth. It is characterized by a sudden and dramatic change in mood, behavior, and thinking.
Postpartum psychosis is a medical emergency and requires immediate treatment. Treatment usually involves a combination of medication and therapy. Medications are used to stabilse the person’s mood and reduce the symptoms of psychosis. Therapy can help the person to understand their illness and develop coping skills.
Symptoms can include:
Hallucinations. Some women see or hear things that are not there or real.
Delusions, having false beliefs about things.
Mania, sometimes feeling extremely high and happy one minute and irritable and moody the next.
Depression, feeling extremely sad and withdrawn, sometimes hopeless.
Confusion, not quite being able to think straight.
Agitation, feeling on edge or not able to rest.
Insomnia, prolonged time of no sleep or getting any rest when the baby sleeps
Suicidal thoughts and feelings or even taking action on them.
The most common medications used to treat postpartum psychosis are antipsychotics, mood stabilizers, and antidepressants. Antipsychotics help to reduce the symptoms of psychosis, such as hallucinations and delusions. Mood stabilisers help to stabilise the person’s mood and prevent mood swings. Antidepressants can help to treat depression.
Therapy can help the person to understand their illness and develop coping skills. Therapy can also help the person to develop a support network and learn how to manage their symptoms.
With treatment, most women with postpartum psychosis make a full recovery. However, it is important to seek treatment early, as untreated postpartum psychosis can be life-threatening.
It can be extremely stressful for both the new mum who’s experiencing the psychosis and the friends and family trying to support them. This is a time when all of the family members need support.
Here are some things that you can do to help someone who is experiencing postpartum psychosis:
- Encourage them to seek professional help.
- Be supportive and understanding.
- Help them to take care of themselves and their baby.
- Monitor their symptoms and report any changes to their doctor.
- Make sure they have a safe place to stay.
- Connect them with a support group or other resources.
If you are concerned that you or someone you know may be experiencing postpartum psychosis, please seek professional help immediately.