Before we get started, if you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of postpartum psychosis, please reach out to someone you trust or contact emergency services in your region. If you are based in the United States, here’s how to get immediate help.
Postpartum psychosis is a highly distressing condition that requires treatment.
If you suspect that this is what you are dealing with, it’s important that you get medical attention.
Knowing what to look out for can help you get the support and treatment you need.
What is postpartum psychosis?
It is common to feel down after giving birth. It is a major transition that affects every element of your life.
Both your internal and external worlds are shifting in a profound way—and that comes with emotional growing pains.
Postpartum depression (PPD) is more serious and requires treatment. If you feel as though your mood is not improving or feelings of sadness and hopelessness are getting more intense, reach out to a healthcare provider as soon as you can.
Can PPD turn into psychosis?
In very rare cases, PPD can turn into psychosis.
Postpartum psychosis can come on very suddenly—often within a day or two after giving birth—and can have symptoms that are more similar to bipolar manic episodes.
What is the definition of postpartum psychosis?
Also called “perinatal psychosis,” “postnatal psychosis” or “puerperal psychosis,” postpartum psychosis is a very serious mental health condition that requires medical attention.
Psychosis means experiencing reality in a different way from those around you. It may involve hallucinations, paranoia, and feeling severely disorientated.
Postpartum psychosis symptoms
Symptoms are not the same for everyone, but some common experiences are:
- Severe agitation and unrest
- Behavior that is erratic and unpredictable
- Quick and intense mood shifts
- Delirium (not knowing where you are or what is happening around you)
- Hallucinations (hearing and seeing things that are not there)
- Delusional beliefs. These can manifest as feelings that someone wants to harm you or your baby
- A desire to hurt yourself or others
- Suicidal thoughts.
These symptoms can be very dangerous for you and those around you—so if you are feeling any of them, tell someone you trust and/or get emergency medical care.
Treatment is available, and there is hope.
How common is postpartum psychosis?
Postpartum psychosis is rare—which is one reason we don’t hear about it nearly as much as we hear about postpartum depression.
According to the Massachusetts Center for Women’s Mental Health, it’s estimated that postpartum psychosis affects 1 to 2 of every 1,000 births.
While the risk is low, it’s definitely worth having the conversation, because in the postpartum period, the risk of experiencing psychosis is 23 times higher than it is at other times of your life.
What causes postpartum psychosis?
There’s no one cause of postpartum psychosis, but there are certain factors that may put you more at risk.
It has a strong tie to bipolar disorder and may be triggered by the hormone changes that you go through when you give birth.
You are at a greater risk of developing postpartum psychosis if you or a family member has a history of bipolar disorder or psychosis.
How long does postpartum psychosis last?
Serious symptoms often last somewhere between two weeks and three months—but full recovery can take up to a year.
About half of women who have one episode of postpartum psychosis will experience another one in future pregnancies.
If you have a history of postpartum psychosis and you are pregnant, tell your doctor so they can get you the support you need.
Is postpartum psychosis permanent?
If you get the treatment and help you need, it’s possible to make a full recovery.
The support of healthcare professionals and your family and friends is vital.
Postpartum Support International is also a great resource that provides ongoing help to those who need it.
You are not alone. 💗
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