If you have been watching EastEnders, you will know that Stacey is experiencing Postnatal Psychosis, also known as Puerperal Psychosis and Postpartum Psychosis. I’m not a regular EastEnders viewer but this has me gripped and it seems to have been well and sensitively researched.
So what is Postnatal Psychosis?
While it is rare, it is a scary and traumatic mental illness which is thought to affect 1 in 1000 new mothers. It usually occurs suddenly in the first couple of weeks after giving birth and it needs to be treated as a medical emergency because it can develop very quickly.
The symptoms can include:
- severe confusion
- manic behaviour
- racing thoughts
- behaviour that is out of character
Women who experience Postnatal Psychosis may not realise they are ill, it can be partners, family, friends, midwives or doctors who identify it or suspect that something is wrong. It can be difficult to spot the symptoms at the beginning. According to a survey of 127 women early symptoms included: 52% elated, excited, giggly; 37% overactive; 35% chatty and talking more; 31% busy, racing mind; 29% disorientated and confused; 25% don’t need to sleep and 23% couldn’t sleep
This isn’t very clear as, although rare, it could affect a new mum without warning but factors can include:
- bipolar, schizophrenia or another psychotic illness
- fluctuations in hormones and lack of sleep
- previous Postnatal Psychosis before
Postnatal Psychosis cannot be prevented and it can strike without warning but women who have previously experienced either Postnatal Psychosis, Schizophrenia or another psychotic illness will be considered high risk and closer monitoring will be recommended throughout pregnancy and on the postnatal ward in case psychotic symptoms develop.
Postpartum Psychosis is not baby blues or postnatal depression, it is a rare and serious mental illness. If you are worried about yourself or someone else you need to seek medical help and treatment as soon as possible. It can be a very scary time and you might not want to make a fuss or you might hope it goes away but it can escalate quickly.
Often women don’t realise something is wrong but partners can notice changes or strange behaviour – if you are concerned, please speak up and monitor her carefully.
- If you are still in hospital – tell a midwife straight away.
- If you are at home – make an urgent appointment with your GP or if it is out of hours or seems more urgent call an ambulance or go straight to a&e.
Postnatal Psychosis needs treating, it won’t get better on its own. With treatment most women start to feel better within the first few weeks but it can take up to a year to recover and most women do fully recover. Treatment can include medication along with specialist psychiatric care and an ongoing care plan.