Postpartum Psychosis (PP) is a rare but serious mental health illness that can affect a woman after she has a baby. It’s normal to experience ‘baby blues’ (mild mood changes) after giving birth, and these usually last about two weeks, but Postpartum Psychosis is very different and should be treated as a medical emergency.
Symptoms usually start suddenly the first few weeks after giving birth. They can include:
- Hallucinations (hearing, seeing or sensing the presence of things that are not really there)
- Delusions (false, strongly held beliefs e.g. paranoia)
- Feeling very confused or disoriented
- Behaving out of character
- A manic mood (talking too much or too quickly, feeling like you’re on top of the world)
- A low mood (showing signs of depression, having no energy, not eating etc)
- Feeling unable to concentrate
It’s not clear what causes postpartum psychosis, but there are some factors that might put you more at risk of developing it. These include:
- If you have a family history of mental health problems, particularly postpartum psychosis (However, it is possible to develop postpartum psychosis if you have no history of mental health problems at all)
- If you already have a diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder or Schizophrenia
- If you have a traumatic birth or pregnancy
If you have a higher risk of developing postpartum psychosis, it’s really important that you discuss your mental health with midwife or doctor, get specialist care during your pregnancy and start thinking about how you can plan ahead.
How can I help myself?
- Talking to someone you trust – being able to talk about your experiences may help you feel better as OCD can often cause you to isolate due to feelings of embarrassment or fears of being misunderstood. It can also help if you let them know how to respond to your obsessions and compulsions and support you.
- Manage your stress – OCD can become worse if you are stressed out, try to identify triggers so that you can anticipate stressful events and manage them better
- Look after yourself – get some more sleep, choose a healthier diet and do some exercise!
How can I help myself?
- Talk to someone – talking to someone you trust can help in itself as you might find that you feel alone or misunderstood. It may also help to join a support group so that you can talk to other people who share your experiences and learn some ways to help yourself through them.
- Keep a diary – it might also help if you keep a diary of your experiences so you can look back at it, identify triggers and then be able to anticipate stressful situations.
- Medication – you will probably be prescribed some antipsychotic medication to help with the manic and psychotic symptoms. You may also be prescribed antidepressants to help you with your symptoms of depression.
- Talking therapy – as you move forward with your recovery, you may be referred for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), which focuses on your thoughts, feelings and behaviour.