Signs and symptoms of Postnatal Psychosis

Postpartum Psychosis (also called ‘Puerperal Psychosis’, ‘Postnatal Psychosis’, ‘Postpartum Bipolar Disorder’ or PP) is a severe episode of mental illness, which starts suddenly in the first few weeks following childbirth. PP occurs following 1-2 in 1000 deliveries, and can be very severe and serious. There are some groups of women, women with a history of bipolar disorder for example, who are at much higher risk.

There are a large variety of symptoms that women with PP may experience. These include:

  • symptoms of “high” mood (mania) – for example, high mood, racing thoughts and pressure to talk too much
  • symptoms of low mood – for example depressed mood, lack of energy, poor appetite and poor sleep
  • psychotic symptoms – such as believing things that are not true (delusions) or seeing or hearing things that are not there (hallucinations)

The period after childbirth can be a devastating time to experience a severe mental illness. For women who experience PP, their partners, friends and family, it can be hard to find high quality information about the symptoms, causes and treatment.

With treatment, the vast majority of women will recover fully and there are usually no long term effects on the relationship between a mother and her baby.

Unfortunately we know little about the causes of PP. Research points to biological, probably hormonal, factors related to pregnancy and childbirth but many other factors are likely to be involved.

For further information about PP see the Royal College of Psychiatrists PP patient information leaflet www.rcpsych.ac.uk or see the APP website.

(Many thanks to Action on Postpartum Psychosis for providing this information)