What is Postpartum Psychosis?

One of the first questions I get asked when someone learns I had postpartum psychosis is “what is it exactly?” With today being international postpartum psychosis awareness day I thought I’d dive into explaining what it is. If you would like to read about my experience you can read the blog series ‘what brought me here

Postpartum psychosis is a rare mental illness that only effects .1-2 out of every 1,000 of births. Typically the mother was previously diagnosed with bi-polar disorder or has had previous psychosis episodes. It typically has a quick onset, developing during the first 2 weeks after childbirth and can be life threatening. When quickly treated there is a 5% suicide rate and 4% infanticide rate. The painful truth about postpartum psychosis is the mothers delusions seem logical to her at the time. She loses since of reality and these become her truth.

It is important to know there is help for this rare but dangerous condition. There is hope, healing and you can find purpose through it, as I have. When quickly caught medication and a watchful eye may be enough while she stabilizes as many survivors don’t have harmful thoughts when treated at early stages. If she is struggling more and fear of harming herself hospitalization might be the safest way to go and your doctor can help you navigate which option is best for you. If you are in a crisis currently please reach out immediately for help. Postpartum Support International has a crisis line and are trained for postpartum mental health crisis. They also hold online support groups for those healing and no longer experiencing psychosis episodes. You may find knowing you aren’t alone to be helpful part of your journey.

What are the symptoms of Postpartum Psychosis?

Postpartum Psychosis have some of the symptoms listed below but know it’s not a one size fits all.

  • hallucinations-visual or auditory.
  • confusion and restlessness
  • rapid mood. Feeling manic or ‘high’. The feeling of being invisible as well as very low episodes
  • struggle sleeping
  • feeling fearful or being paranoid
  • feeling irritable

How does it differ from postpartum depression?

From the outside early stages may confuse on lookers as postpartum depression but there are some distinct differences. Postpartum depression will not have the manic mood. The feeling of being invisible then to severe depression. Instead you are going to experience the sad and low depressive episodes without the high swing. This doesn’t mean that you won’t have some good days. This catches people off guard and makes them question if they have postpartum depression since they aren’t constantly depressed. Know that that’s not the case and its important to still be honest with your Dr and discuss how you are feeling.

You may find your appetite is gone with ppd, and you are fatigued. Often you feel guilty or that you are not enough. You could feel like you aren’t sleeping well and are having a hard time concentrating. Lastly, you could feel suicidal. Its important to reach out if you are in crisis. Again, postpartum support international has a trained crisis line. Do not wait to reach out. The earlier the better.

Know your risk factors.

Best way to prevent is to be educated. So know your risk factors. Some of them maybe the following but are not limited to..

  • previous psychotic or schizophrenia episodes
  • bi-polar diagnosis
  • depression during pregnancy
  • history of traumatic birth or pregnancy
  • a family history of bi-polar or psychotic episodes
  • previous postpartum psychosis

Do not discontinue anti- psychotic medication without doctor consult during pregnancy. Sometimes the safest option is to keep a mother with this history medicated for a healthy mother after giving birth.

Please know there is so much hope for healing if you or a loved one is experiencing this. To read some survivor stories visit this website.

As always, I’m rooting and praying for you.

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