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Puerperal psychosis (Postpartum Psychosis)

Postpartum psychosis is a serious mental health illness that can affect women after having a baby. It is common amongst first-time mothers who recently have a child. It’s usually common for all new mothers to have episodes of sadness, fear, and anxiety but when these symptoms persist or turn into potentially dangerous thoughts, they should seek medical assistance.

Symptoms of puerperal psychosis

  • Postpartum psychosis symptoms are similar to some mental disorders like bipolar, manic episodes. Some of the severe symptoms include:
  • Auditory hallucinations (hearing things that aren’t real, such as suggestions for a mother to harm herself or that the baby is trying to kill her).
  • Delusional beliefs that are usually related to the infant, such as those others are trying to harm her baby.
  • Disoriented as to place and time.
  • Erratic and unusual behavior.
  • Rapidly changing moods from extreme sadness to very energetic
  • Suicidal thoughts.
  • Violent thoughts, such as telling a mother to hurt her baby.
  • Postpartum psychosis can be severe for a mother and her little one.

Risk factors for puerperal psychosis

  • A woman with a history of bipolar disorder.
  • A woman who has experienced postpartum psychosis in her previous pregnancy.
  • A woman with a history of schizoaffective disorder or schizophrenia.
  • A family with a history of postpartum psychosis or bipolar disorder
  • A primigravida ( a woman with her first pregnancy)
  • Having a baby with health complications.
  • Having a baby at such a very young age.

Treatment/ management of postpartum psychosis

Postpartum psychosis needs emergency care before the mother harms herself or the baby. Treatment for postpartum psychosis may involve:

  • Hospitalization: A woman undergoing postpartum psychosis needs to be admitted to the hospital and taking care of, she is separated from her child for the main time before she harms herself or the baby.
  • Medication: Treatments during the psychotic episode include medications to reduce depression, stabilize moods, and reduce psychosis. Examples include:

Antipsychotics: These medications reduce the incidence of hallucinations. Examples include risperidone (Risperdal), olanzapine (Zyprexa), ziprasidone (Geodon), and aripiprazole (Abilify).

Mood stabilizers: These medications reduce manic episodes. Examples include lithium (Lithobid), carbamazepine (Tegretol), lamotrigine (Lamictal), and divalproex sodium (Depakote).

  • Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT): The therapy is carried out on a woman who doesn’t respond well to medicines and needs further treatment; electroconvulsive shock therapy (ECT) is often very effective. This therapy involves delivering a controlled amount of electromagnetic stimulation to your brain which creates an effect that helps to reset the imbalances in the brain.

Prevention of puerperal Psychosis

Talk to your doctor about your personal mental health history and family history.

  • Keep all your appointments with any other health care providers that you see or your doctor refers you to.
  • Discuss your risk with the health care team.
  • Learn about the condition.
  • Have realistic expectations about delivery and motherhood.
  • Talk to someone about any negative feelings you have.
  • Try to get enough sleep.
  • Try to reduce your stress.
  • Learn, practice, and use healthy coping skills.
  • Include your partner in your prenatal appointments and care.
  • Prepare your tribe by telling trusted family and friends so they can be helpful, supportive, and encouraging.
  • Know the signs of psychosis, and make sure your support system knows them, too.
  • Consider individual and group counseling for support.
  • Tell someone right away if you have any symptoms.
  • Have help at home and frequent health care check-ups in the days and weeks after your baby is born.


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