Postpartum psychosis is a rare, but real and serious, mental health issue that may affect you in the first few days and weeks after giving birth. It develops only one in every 1,000 new mothers. It’s a debilitating psychological state that triggers hallucinations and delusions. As with other mental health issues, it has nothing to do with your intelligence or strength of character. You are at risk for it if you have previous episodes of anxiety or depression; a family history of mental illnesses; delivery complications; and age between 15-19 years old or over 35 years old. Moreover, if you have been diagnosed with postpartum depression, panic attacks, premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), bipolar affective disorder, or an eating disorder such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa then you are at higher risk of developing postpartum psychosis. If you or someone you care about experiences these symptoms after delivery, get help immediately. And if you think that might be the case, ask your doctor about what to watch out for and how to best protect yourself from getting it.
It is not something to be fearful of, however. The majority of women who experience PPOCD can make a full recovery with time and support.
Let’s dive deeper and in this article, look at some common symptoms, risk factors, causes, and treatments of postpartum psychosis. Read on to know how you can help recognize the symptoms early if you know someone who might be at risk, and where to get help if you think you might be affected yourself.The Symptoms of Postpartum Psychosis
The symptoms of postpartum psychosis include hallucinations and delusions, extreme mood swings, feelings of worthlessness, and a loss of ability to care for your baby.
- Hallucinations - These are sensations that occur in the absence of stimuli. In this case, it would be visual, auditory, or tactile sensations. For example, you might see things that are not there or hear voices. If you have postpartum psychosis, you might see things like bugs crawling on your skin.
- Delusions - Delusions are false beliefs that you believe in despite evidence to the contrary. For example, you might believe that someone is trying to harm you or your child.
- Extreme mood swings - The mood swings that accompany postpartum psychosis are severe and unpredictable. For example, you might go from being tearful to angry or excited very quickly and without any obvious external cause.
- Feeling worthless - You might feel that you have no reason to live and have no value. Alternatively, you might feel that you are a terrible person and will never be able to care for your child. Such feelings are dangerous and need to be taken seriously.
- A loss of ability to care for your baby - You might not be able to feed your baby or recognize that your baby needs to eat. Alternatively, you might not be able to change your baby's diaper or put your baby down for a nap.
Extreme mood swings
A loss of ability to care for your babyHow to Spot Postpartum Psychosis
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of postpartum psychosis mentioned above, it is important to seek help before you get into a full-blown episode. Ensure you have a support system in place, such as a partner, family member, or friend, who can help take care of you and your baby while you are undergoing treatment. If you experience severe mood swings, extreme guilt, or negative thoughts about yourself or your baby, contact your doctor or go to your nearest emergency room as postpartum psychosis can be a very serious condition and requires immediate attention and treatment.What Causes Postpartum Psychosis?
The cause of postpartum psychosis is unknown, but some doctors believe that it may be linked to changes in the levels of certain chemicals in your brain after giving birth, such as the hormone estrogen. Other possible causes include bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, a previous history of mental illness, and certain medications taken by you. In about 20% of cases, postpartum psychosis occurs in women who do not have a history of mental illness. It is not clear why these women develop postpartum psychosis, but some researchers believe that it may be linked to hormone changes, especially estrogen.Risk Factors for Developing Postpartum Psychosis
The factors that increase your risk for postpartum psychosis include previous episodes of anxiety or depression; history of psychiatric illnesses in family; complications during delivery; and age between 15-19 years old or over 35 years old.
- Previous episodes of depression, anxiety, or mental illness - If you have previously experienced episodes of depression, anxiety or other mental illness such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, your risk of developing postpartum psychosis is higher than normal.
- A family history of psychiatric illnesses - If you have a family member who has been diagnosed with a mental illness, then your risk of developing postpartum psychosis is increased.
- Complications during delivery - If there are complications during the delivery of your child, then your risk of developing postpartum psychosis is increased.
- Being aged between 15-19 years old or over 35 years old - The risk of developing postpartum psychosis increases as you get older.
- Having a child under exceptional circumstances - If you have a child who was conceived by artificial insemination, has a different father from your other children, or has a genetic condition, then your risk of developing postpartum psychosis is increased.
Previous episodes of depression, anxiety, or mental illness
A family history of psychiatric illnesses
Complications during delivery
Being aged between 15-19 years old or over 35 years old
Having a child under exceptional circumstance
Treatment for Postpartum Psychosis
Postpartum psychosis is a medical emergency that requires immediate treatment. The treatment will depend on the severity of your symptoms, but will most likely include antipsychotic medication, hospitalization, and therapy. If you are diagnosed with postpartum psychosis, make sure you inform your healthcare team about any previous mental health issues and any medications you have taken in the past. Your doctor may decide to monitor your blood more frequently or adjust your medication doses to make sure that you do not develop postpartum psychosis. Therapy helps greatly to overcome your condition and develop a positive attitude.Final Words
Postpartum psychosis is an uncommon but significant mental health condition that can appear after your delivery. It's a crippling psychiatric condition that involves anxiety disorder, rage, OCD, extreme mood swings, worthlessness feelings, delusions, and hallucinations. Keep the symptoms, causes, and risk factors in mind to spot it on time. It's crucial to obtain treatment right away if you show any signs of postpartum psychosis to avoid a full-blown episode. It's important to have a support system in place, including a spouse, relative, or friend who can help with childcare while you're receiving therapy for yourself or your infant. Contact your doctor or visit the nearest emergency department if you feel significant mood swings, overwhelming guilt, or bad thoughts about yourself or your child.