What is Puerperal Psychosis?

Puerperal Psychosis is a rare condition, affecting around 1 or 2 in a 1000 new mum’s.  It occurs suddenly, usually in the first six week after the baby is born, and often in the first few days.  It is sometimes known as Postpartum Psychosis or Postnatal Psychosis.

It is a very severe illness, but the disturbance in mum’s mental state is obvious to those around her, so it is easily spotted.  It can appear with no warning but the risk is increased if a mum has suffered previously, or has a history of mental illness, particularly bipolar disorder.


Symptoms of Puerperal Psychosis

Symptoms are very varied and can be rapidly changing.  They can include:

  • Elation, excitability and over activity
  • Low mood and despair
  • Rapid mood swings
  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Not needing to rest or sleep
  • Obsessive behaviour
  • Significant anxiety
  • Losing touch with reality, with hallucinations or unusual beliefs

Occasionally mum’s can have thoughts about harming themselves or even their baby.


Treatment of Puerperal Psychosis

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Treatment of Puerperal Psychosis usually involves medication for a time, and mum’s may require admission to hospital.  Where possible mums and babies are kept together, and admission to specialised mother and baby units can be considered.  The family needs to be closely involved throughout this time.  Treatment is usually very successful and recovery quite rapid.  After mum’s go home with their baby they are usually supported by a Community Mental Health Team for a time, to support with complete recovery.