What is postpartum psychosis and what to do about it?

 What is postpartum psychosis and what to do about it?

Red signs that indicate postpartum psychosis include unsettling thoughts and emotional numbness in a tiny percentage of new moms.

It might even include thoughts of hurting the kid. Postpartum psychosis is a serious mental disease marked by considerable difficulty in connecting emotionally to a newborn infant.

Despite the possibility of the two disorders co-occurring, the condition is distinct from postpartum depression.

It typically denotes bipolar disorder rather than merely depression, In fact, because there is a chance that the baby or the new mother may be harmed, Dr. classifies postpartum psychosis as a "psychiatric emergency."

Who gets postpartum depression?

A somewhat uncommon disorder is postpartum psychosis. According to research in Psychiatric Times from January 2014, 1 to 2 of every 1,000 new moms are thought to have postpartum psychosis.

About half of the moms who have postpartum psychosis also have a history of mental illness, meaning the other half are unaware they are suffering from it.

Unknown factors may contribute to postpartum psychosis. After birth, there may be a sudden change in hormone levels that causes the illness.

A woman who has diabetes or who gave birth to a big baby may be protected for some reason, according to some studies, although being an older mother may increase the risk.

One of the characteristics of postpartum psychosis is its early start, frequently in the first 1 to 4 weeks after the baby is born, whereas postpartum depression is more likely to manifest in the three months after delivery (though can appear during the first year of the kid's life as well).

The signs of depression are so alarming, that a husband or other carer nearly always detects something is wrong and phones a doctor or family member to express worry. Most moms will be at home after being discharged from the hospital when it strikes

Signs  and symptoms of postpartum psychosis

Other symptoms go beyond those of postpartum depression. The following are some warning indicators.

Unexpected thoughts of tossing the baby or otherwise hurting it.

Delusions (beliefs that have no basis in reality).

hallucinations (the perception of unreal sights or sounds).

"Flat affect" is often a lack of emotion or an expressionless face.

Emotional response to the infant is difficult.

Beyond the typical disrupted sleep of a new mother, difficulty falling asleep.

Changes in eating or appetite.




An absence of parental attachment.

Suicidal ideas or the conviction that the mother should end her life because it would be better for the baby or the family.

When postpartum psychosis is severe, a woman may engage in actions like looking off into space, muttering to herself, rejecting food, or speaking comments that sound illogical.

The spouse may phone and report that she is not responding to the infant and is not sleeping, which is generally very dramatic. Typically, it isn't undiscovered.

In the first few weeks after giving birth, any mom being visited by a doctor for a mental disorder should be questioned about any suicidal thoughts she may have had about either her child or other people.

Risks related to postpartum psychosis

Several characteristics are known to raise a woman's risk for postpartum psychosis, even though other women can have the disorder with no risk factors. They consist of:

Bipolar disorder history.

Prior pregnancy with postpartum psychosis history.

History of schizophrenia or schizoaffective disease.

Family history of bipolar illness or postpartum psychosis.

Initial pregnancy

Psychiatric medication withdrawal during pregnancy.

It is unknown what causes postpartum psychosis specifically. Doctors are aware that all postpartum mothers have changing hormone levels. However, some people appear to be more susceptible to the negative effects of changes in thyroid, progesterone, or estrogen hormones on their mental health. Genetics, culture, as well as environmental and physiological variables, can have an impact on the causes of postpartum psychosis, among many other health-related issues. Lack of sleep might also be a factor.

How is postpartum psychosis diagnosed by doctors?

The first question a doctor will ask you is about your symptoms and how long you have been having them. Additionally, they will inquire about your previous medical history, particularly whether you have a history of:

Other mental illnesses 

  • Bipolar disorder 
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Family history of mental illness
  • Thoughts of injuring your baby or committing suicide
  • Addiction to drugs

It's crucial to be as open and honest as you can with your doctor so you can receive the care you require. The presence of thyroid hormones or a postpartum infection is two additional conditions and circumstances that a doctor would attempt to rule out before prescribing any treatment. White blood cell counts, thyroid hormone levels, and other pertinent data can be determined by blood tests.

A woman can be asked to fill out a depression screening form by a doctor. These inquiries are intended to aid medical professionals in identifying postpartum depressive and/or psychotic symptoms in women.

Postpartum psychosis treatment

Psychosis following childbirth is a medical emergency. A person should dial 911 and go to an emergency room for care, or arrange for someone to take them there. When a woman's mood has stabilized and she is no longer at risk of killing herself or her unborn child, she frequently receives therapy at an inpatient facility for at least a few days.

Medications that lessen despair, normalize emotions, and lessen psychosis are among the treatments used during a psychotic episode. Examples comprise:

Antipsychotics. These drugs lessen the likelihood of hallucinations. Risperidone (Risperdal), olanzapine (Zyprexa), ziprasidone (Geodon), and aripiprazole are a few examples (Abilify).

Mood Stabilizers. These drugs lessen manic episodes. Lamotrigine (Lamictal), lithium (Lithobid), carbamazepine (Tegretol), and divalproex sodium are among examples (Depakote).

There isn't a single pharmaceutical mix that works best. Because every woman is unique, she could respond better to antidepressants or anxiety medications alone or in conjunction with one from the groups above.

Electroconvulsive shock therapy (ECT) is frequently quite helpful if a woman doesn't respond well to medications or requires additional treatment. A regulated quantity of electromagnetic stimulation is given to your brain during this therapy.

A storm or seizure-like activity is produced in the brain as a result of the effect, which aids in "resetting" the imbalances that led to a psychotic episode. For years, doctors have successfully treated serious depression and bipolar illness with ECT.

Postpartum psychosis prognosis

The most severe postpartum psychosis symptoms might endure for two to twelve weeks. Some women may require between six and twelve months to fully recover. Women may experience feelings of depression and/or worry even after the main symptoms of psychosis have subsided. It's crucial to continue taking any recommended drugs and to get ongoing assistance and therapy for these symptoms.

Mothers who are nursing their children should see their doctor regarding safety. Breast milk contains many drugs that are used to treat postpartum psychosis.

According to research published in The American Journal of Psychiatry, 31 percent of women who have a history of postpartum psychosis would go through the disorder once more during a subsequent pregnancy.

Although you shouldn't let this number stop you from having more children, it is something to bear in mind as you prepare to give birth. A woman may receive a prescription from her doctor for a mood stabilizer like lithium to use after having birth. This could help to avert postpartum psychosis.

A postpartum psychotic episode does not guarantee that you will experience more psychotic or depressive episodes in the future. However, it does imply that you should be aware of the signs and where to go for care should your symptoms start to resurface.

A disorder known as postpartum psychosis (PPP) affects women who have just given birth. Because it alters a person's perception of reality, this illness is very severe and deadly. Because of this, persons with PPP run the danger of committing themselves or hurting their kids. Fortunately, PPP is a curable and reversible illness. Many persons who suffer from this illness eventually get well, and many go on to have new births without experiencing PPP again.

Family and loved ones are most likely to notice the signs of postpartum psychosis since persons with PPP are unable to identify that they have this disorder. Do not hesitate to seek medical attention for a loved one if you believe they may have PPP.

While it may be unsettling or terrifying to witness a loved one in this situation, you may take steps to ensure the safety of both the mother and the baby, giving the mother a chance to recover and lead a normal life once more (with the addition of a new family member, of course).

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