It is time to talk about postpartum psychosis

Psychosis. What sort of images come into your mind when you think about that word?Naomi's blog My guess is that you didn’t immediately think of a new mum with a tiny baby. Postpartum Psychosis happened to me, and happens to around 1400 new mums every year in the UK. When my first baby was just ten days old I needed to be admitted to psychiatric hospital. I had become very high and energetic after her birth, and by day ten I believed that the end of the world was coming.

I wonder if this is the first time you have heard of Postpartum Psychosis? If it’s not, what kind of news stories or internet stories have you read about this illness? In the ten years since I had my first baby, I have only ever read one positive story about a mum who recovered from her experience. I have come across countless tragic stories, many of which paint mums who do have psychosis as evil and deranged.

Conversations with peers who have ‘been in your shoes’ are incredibly valuable

In my experience of meeting other mums who have had Postpartum Psychosis the media images of mothers who have been through psychotic episodes couldn’t be further from the truth. The women I have met come from all walks of life, and have tremendous stories of strength and resilience to share. A common thread is our passionate love for our children. I have been on a long journey to recover my confidence as a mum. Many mums who have been through Postpartum Psychosis feel forever changed by our experience of psychosis. Conversations with peers who have ‘been in your shoes’ are incredibly valuable. There is something deeply reassuring about speaking to another mum who has taken that long journey from the fear and confusion of psychosis to recovering at home, to rebuilding her confidence as a mother. I’ve had the privilege of meeting other mums affected by Postpartum Psychosis through my work as a trustee with Action on Postpartum Psychosis. I’ve also worked for Rethink Mental Illness as a trainer of GPs and medical students, so it has felt really positive to be able to change their perceptions of what a mother who has had psychosis is really like.

It’s time for postnatal mental illnesses like Postpartum Psychosis to come out of the shadows

Speaking to friends and colleagues about my experience hasn’t always been as easy. There are so many expectations of the emotions you will feel as a new mum. How do you tell another mum at a toddler group that you lost your grip on reality while she was worrying about the night feeds or nappy changing? In my small town for a few years I was gossiped about as “that mum who got sectioned” and whilst my close friends took time to really hear about my experiences, I definitely felt there was stigma lurking in the shadows.

Some women still feel they can’t tell their friends or co-workers about their episode of Postpartum Psychosis for fear of judgement. This is why Time to Change’s message of open, honest, real conversations about mental health is so important. It’s time for postnatal mental illnesses like Postpartum Psychosis to come out of the shadows. It’s time for the media to take notice of real women, like me, who can show people that it is possible to recover and rebuild a family life after mental illness.

Naomi’s charity, Action on Postpartum Psychosis, has been nominated for a National Lottery Award in the Health category. You can visit the Lottery Good causes website to vote and to find out more about supporting the mission to bust the stigma surrounding postnatal mental illness.

Have you experienced post partum psychosis? What did you think of Naomi's story?

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Comments

Shared experience

i was lucky to meet Naomi at an APP volunteers event. Speaking to her, and the many other mums there, made me realise I wasn't alone and that recovery is very much possible. We were all determined to share our experiences and help other families get through this devastating illness. I was psychotic within a day or two of giving birth, and required one to one nursing in a specialised Mother and Baby Unit (part of a large psychiatric hospital). Despite the severity of my illness, I went on to make a full recovery and left hospital with my three month old baby, embarking upon my new life as a mum. We haven't looked back! Thanks Naomi for writing this and sharing your story xxx

Getting the message out there

I agree, Kathryn, it's stories like the one Naomi shares (and your story) that provide such hope for mums and families in a similar position. As a perinatal mental health campaigner, I am in awe of the passion that comes through so strongly in these very moving accounts. As Naomi also mentioned, stories of lived experience can be used successfully to train health professionals about how they can support and treat postpartum psychosis. I would also like to add words of admiration to Action on Postpartum Psychosis for the incredible work that they do in providing support to some of the most vulnerable families.

It is always a pleasure and a

It is always a pleasure and a deep privilege to meet other mums who have experienced Postpartum Psychosis. We share a deep bond knowing that we have been to such scary places and yet survived and become stronger. Thank you for sharing your hopeful story of recovery too Kathryn. x

Stigma

Thank you for sharing your story. I'm a bit of a hypocrite as I believe the only way we can tackle the stigma of mental illness is to share our stories and provide people with the opportunity to see that we are normal human beings just going through a terrible and often scary experience. I also think these stories are vital to contribute to our recovery. The media is full of horror stories and it's so hard to find a story about recovery and hope - trust me, I looked!! So why I am a hypocrite? Because I am a mental health nurse and I still feel that I have to hide how ill I was. I can't risk the parents of the families I nurse hearing that I was mentally ill and I'm too afraid to allow my colleagues to know and have them treat me differently. I wish I could bravely share my story, maybe one day I will but in the meantime, thank you Naomi for paving the way xx

Post-partum Psychosis

I had this twice and was sectioned to mum and baby units straight from maternity and this was a huge shock to me and my family. I can assure you this isn't just a case of feeling a bit sad or weepy after giving birth. Breaking down, hallucinatiing, seeing & hearing voices telling me I wasn't good enough or capable enough or stable enough to be a decent mother to my babies. The distress led to me screaming with horror and extreme revulsion at my own mind. I loved my babies from the start how could I be thinking such awful and soul destroying things about myself? No one could tell me on the ward, the midwives seemed at a loss and unable to cope with me in such an agitated condition and irratational state of mind. Finally a more experienced nurse recognised my symptoms and arranged for a psychiatrist to assess me and he concluded very quickly I was suffering from post-partum psychosis & a place should be found for me and my babies as soon as possible. So it was that twice, I was in mum and baby units for several months with fantastic nurses, professionals and psychiatrists to ease my recovery and maintain my bond with my babies by having them in their cots in my own private room with me 24/7. I hear so many stories of women not so fortunate as I was, being seperated from their babies for months on end and then failing to bond when eventually returning home. And again, with poor or none extistent support in the months and years that follow the illness. Again I was fortunate, twice, with great peri-natal support from specialist psychiatric nurses and health vistiors who undersstood how very ill I had been and whom provided moral support as well as extra care when I went to clinics etc. One even came with me to mum and baby groups to help me settle in with other mums. Our son is now 28 years old and still my first baby, and the apple of my eye. Our daughter is nearly 15 and I cherish her, as we waited so many years before I felt emtoional ready to cope once more with the possibility of post-partum psychosis once more. We were ready but still taken by suprise, when I became ill once more but the joy at her birth and her life puts post-partum psychosis into perspective and a mother and father's love can over come the truly awful illness that is post-partum psychosis.

APP

Naomi, a lovely post. I manage a regional service for women suffering from post natal illness. We have recently met with our regional APP representative and look forward to making more robust working links with her. We have the most amazing group of volunteer mothers who peer support new mothers in the service. They won the trust volunteer awards last year and rightly so. Any post natal mental illness is a challenging experience that impacts the whole family. Mothers can recover but the medicine and specialist support benefits from that most important feeling of not being alone that meeting others who have experienced this can bring. I personally feel very privileged to work with mothers, infants and their families at such a crucial stage of thier new relationship.

Postpartum Psychosis

Is this more prevelant after the first born child? or can it happen after multiple births? The definition of the word Partum is not easy to find. Should it be 'Partmum' as the feeling of a complete mother is not being realised by that iindividual? Is it caused by over expectations and should therefore be 'treated' pre birth as a prevention or even pre pregnancy. After all, some of life's biggest disappointments can be the realisation of a dream, i.e many of us have dreams or wishes in life and so we should, as it appears to give us somthing to hang on to, however once that dream or wish is fullfilled there is nothing left to hang on to unless a new dream or wish is discoverd or the existiing dream or wish is developed further. How long has Postpartum psychosis been recognised and is it a more advanced period of 'the baby blues'? Remember the baby blues? The conversation went somthing like this "Oh she's had a baby girl" "Argh, brilliant, hows mum and the baby doing?" "Oh babys fine, mums got a touch of the baby blues, but she'll soon get over it" Will she?, did she? It appears that it is finally being recognised as a more serious condition and being re labelled to highlight the importance. Maybe the prevention approach is a better way forward however it's measure of success will not obviously be immediate and the realisation of the success will not be a dissapointment.

I suffered back in 1996

I'd given birth in hospital and was a first time mum and had a perfect baby girl. When my milk came in on about day 2 I can remember feeling very weird. High. Over emotional. I couldn't sleep. Loads of babies on the ward crying all night. I told the nurses I was going mad. I was assured it was lack of sleep and maybe the baby blues. I didn't want to go home and be with the baby alone. I felt like I'd been possessed. My husband was allowed to stay the night on a camp bed in a side room with me. After a few days my husband asked that I was discharged. My midwife was useless however luckily she went on holiday and was replaced with Shan who knew I was ill. I didn't sleep for days. By now I was hallucinating. I was convinced I was either dead or would die as I'd done my job as becoming a mother. The TV and radio spoke to me. I'd get in red hot baths and not test the water. It felt like my brain had shrunk in the wash. The bottles and sterliser were bought when my GP got me sleeping pills. When my husband went back to work my mum moved in. We got a psychiatrist to visit who was going to admit me to hospital. I remember being terrified. Was I an unfit mother and would the baby be taken away ? My Mum explained she'd take time off work and stay with me at home and this was allowed. I was diagnosed with puerperal psychosis and medicated. I slept a lot, even during meal times. My GP visited me at home. It took a fair few weeks to start feeling normal. Within 6 months I went back to work part time 2 days a week as a bank clerk. I struggled bonding with Zoe but my Husband and mother gave her loads of extra cuddles. 2 years on I got pregnant again. I looked into hormone treatment and got info from a lady that used to be a GP. She worked for a post natal illness charity. I was told by another psychiatrist that I'd need Lithium and to stay in hospital and would be unable to breast feed. I ignored him and took the advice from the post natal illness associaition instead. I had a home birth and took the hormones straight after birth of my son and for the next 2 weeks. This time I had no madness. I felt fine and was as normal as any other woman with a toddler and new born is ! I breast fed for months and sent my husband for the chop as soon as my son was one. We have a lovely daughter who is 19 and a 17 year old son. I still have bouts of depression but have always been open about how I'm feeling.

Postpartum Bipolar; Can Manifest w/Postpartum Psychosis

Thank you for sharing your story, Naomi! I found out about it on Twitter as I follow Action on Postpartum Psychosis & they tweeted this link. As a mom of two young girls, I live with the lesser-known perinatal mood and anxiety disorder (PMAD)of bipolar, peripartum onset (a.k.a. postpartum bipolar) which was childbirth-triggered bipolar one disorder. I advise women and health professionals to educate themselves about ALL the perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. Apart from postpartum psychosis there are 7 other PMADS listed on the excellent Postpartum Progress website's FAQ page. For more information I suggest checking out the outstanding website Postpartum Support International in their bipolar mood disorders section. The APP (Action on Postpartum Psychosis) website addresses antenatal and postpartum bipolar disorder too. My postpartum bipolar disorder, or bipolar, peripartum onset is rare but it definitely happens. Postpartum psychosis can be accompanied by bipolar, peripartum onset, but that's not always the case. At age thirty-seven I had my second baby. I walked into the maternity ward in labor with no previous diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Within 24 hours of my daughter's birth I was hypomanic and hypergraphic (compulsive writing); no one recognized I was in trouble until six weeks later when I was acutely manic. It was then when I voluntarily admitted myself for hospitalization and received an official diagnosis of bipolar, peripartum onset with no psychotic features.I was honored to have my story published on Postpartum Progress website - search for "postpartum bipolar". Thanks for reading! Dyane Leshin-Harwood Member, International Society of Bipolar Disorders and The Marce Society for Perinatal Mental Health, Postpartum Support International

I'm now almost 50. Some of my

I'm now almost 50. Some of my very earliest memories are from when my mother suffered a serious mental health episode after my younger brother was born. She was an in patient at a mental health hospital and my brother and I stayed with her. My memories are odd, but not traumatic, things like wondering why some people had orange juice on the diner table, when we only had water. I grew up knowing mum had been ill, it's never been hidden and we have always been open about what happened and some of the treatment she had. I've also suffered two depressive episodes in my life, and my eldest son has also struggled. I'm am now a senior manager in the Civil Service, I am open about the ill health I and my family have suffered. I believe my experiences make me a better manager, more able to empathise and be open with my staff and colleagues who suffer or have family members that suffer. I regard my experiences of mental health as a positive thing, not something to be ashamed of. It's made me the person I am today.

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