What is Postpartum Psychosis?

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  • Written By: Michael Pollick
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 05 October 2016
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Postpartum psychosis is a rare but serious mental stress disorder triggered within a few months after childbirth. A mother suffering from this condition may experience hallucinations, irrational thoughts, sleep deprivation or eating disorders. She may even consider killing herself or her newborn child. It is important for family members and friends to recognize postpartum psychosis as an entirely different condition than the more common postpartum depression or so-called baby blues. Both conditions may require some form of treatment, but postpartum psychosis can lead to a tragic outcome if not detected and treated quickly.

Postpartum psychosis has been recognized as a mental health disorder since the 1850s, although the most effective anti-psychotic drug treatments have only been available since the 1960s or so. This condition is very rare, occurring only once or twice per every 1,000 births. It is considered one of the most dangerous forms of postpartum stress disorders, however, so many physicians encourage family members to take active steps toward de-stressing a new mother's environment. This disorder is more likely to occur in mothers who receive little social support, face economic difficulties or suffer from a poor self-image.


Women who have a history of psychotic illness, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, are also said to be more likely to develop this condition. Even if these psychotic illnesses only run in the family, and the woman is not actually affected, they can increase a woman's susceptibility. Some medical experts suggest that some postpartum psychosis is triggered by an overabundance of birth-related hormones, which overwhelm the body's natural coping mechanisms and cause the mental symptoms. Others say that a mother can appear perfectly normal for weeks, then experience a sudden onset of psychological problems.

This disorder can be treated through a combination of anti-psychotic drug therapies and intensive counseling sessions. As with other mental health conditions, many people are reluctant to acknowledge the possibility of a problem, so a number of mothers refuse to seek treatment voluntarily. Treatment for postpartum psychosis is most effective when started early. Any delays can add months to the mother's recovery time. Approximately 5% of mothers suffering from this condition attempt suicide, while another 4% consider killing their newborn babies. Family members should encourage mothers to confide in a medical professional if they suspect they have developed a serious emotional condition.


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Post 3

Almost twenty eight years ago I was hospitalized after the birth of my first child with the doctor saying it was bipolar disorder. I was only treated for the bipolar and am still to this day.

I was never given antipsychotic drugs at all, and it took a long time to get better. I had shock treatments etc., and was in the hospital for almost five months.

Just recently, another doctor advised me that although i have bipolar disorder, twenty eight years ago it was the postpartum psychosis that made me ill. If I had received the right treatment, things may have turned out better. I did try to commit suicide and permanently injured myself, although never once did I

think of hurting my son.

I went on to have my second son four years later and worked full time and raised my sons alone for years.

So if anyone else has this problem please seek help right away and ask questions. Don't just think the first answer you get is always right.

I wish I had taken a more aggressive stance when I was ill.

Post 2


I see what you are saying, but I think that "problems with our society" should never hinder someone from going to see a professional. Professionals are extensively trained on how to effectively counsel and treat varying issues, and can lead people out of an unawareness of their own problems toward dealing with them appropriately.

Post 1

The psychiatric community would often seek to slap a label on everything and avoid dealing with the deeper problems of patterns of thought, belief, worldview, etc. Patients should recognize that there are extremely deep and harmful issues in their mind and in their behavior. The problem with contemporary society today is that they think everything is fine with them and that the problem exists with others. Most people would consider their self a "good person." This is simply not the case, psychotic disorders or serious and harmful problems can affect anyone.

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