Postpartum Psychosis, what is it and why does it happen?

Simon Doyle
Postpartum Psychosis, what is it and why does it happen?

Postpartum psychosis is a rare psychological disorder that can occur in mothers who have just given birth. This problem usually occurs in the days and / or weeks after delivery and can worsen, so mothers who present these symptoms usually need to be treated urgently by health professionals.


  • What is postpartum psychosis?
  • Causes of postpartum psychosis
  • Symptoms of postpartum psychosis
    • Other common symptoms in these types of disorders are:
  • Treatment of Postpartum Psychosis
    • Links of interest

What is postpartum psychosis?

Postpartum psychosis is a severe mental disorder that occurs when a woman gives birth and, as in all psychotic disorders, there is a loss of contact with reality that can become serious, resulting in symptoms such as delusions or hallucinations. Although these symptoms can be alarming and both the patient and her relatives may feel great concern, with adequate treatment and medical supervision, mothers with this disorder usually recover completely within a certain period of time of between six months to a year..

Causes of postpartum psychosis

This disorder is not very common, since it occurs between 0.1% and 0.2% of the population and usually affects especially women who have previously presented a history of certain psychological diseases such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, however it can also occur without that there is a connection to other prior disorders.

Although the causes of postpartum psychosis are not entirely clear, the possibility that it may be enhanced by the great hormonal change that mothers can suffer after childbirth is being considered..

Unlike in postpartum depression that usually occurs from the third month after giving birth, postpartum psychosis appears very early, between the first and fourth week after giving birth, usually occurring between two to three days after delivery and even during the last weeks of pregnancy.

Symptoms of postpartum psychosis

The symptoms of postpartum psychosis are very diverse and, as in all psychotic disorders, there is a serious loss of contact with reality that results in different symptoms. Women with this disorder often have great excitement or symptoms of anxiety, depression, or confusion. They may also have drastic mood swings and irritability. These previous changes include the following symptoms:

  • Strange and irrational ideas that can translate into delusions
  • Present auditory, visual or related hallucinations with any sensory capacity. For example, the person may begin to hear voices that do not exist in real life.
  • Mood too high with loss of contact with reality, manic episode.

Other common symptoms in these types of disorders are:

  • Socialize and talk more than usual, with some verbiage
  • Show racing thoughts and keep your mind excessively occupied with these thoughts.
  • Inability to bond with the baby or respond to its needs
  • Trouble sleeping, even feeling like there is no need to sleep
  • Behavior out of control
  • Thoughts of suicide and beliefs that the baby would be better off without its mother

Some examples of more common delusions might be believing that things are connected and that any information can carry a personal message, or that the baby is connected to God or devil in some way. You may also think of harming the baby or yourself.

Treatment of Postpartum Psychosis

The treatment of this disorder is very important for the well-being of both the mother, the baby and their relatives. Despite how serious it may be, with good medical care the problem usually disappears until stability is found.

Sometimes, although the mother may notice that she is having a problem, she may not be fully aware of what is happening to her and may not seek help properly. This can also happen out of fear that they will take custody of the baby, so they may not communicate the symptoms they are suffering. It is common for spouses or close family members to be alarmed by strange behavior and seek medical help. It is necessary that this help is presented as soon as possible to alleviate any negative effects of this disorder.

In these cases, the mother is usually hospitalized for a few days and the prescription of antipsychotic and antidepressant medications to treat mood is common..

Links of interest

  • What is Psychosis ?.
  • First signs of psychosis, how to detect them?
  • What Is Postpartum Psychosis ?. Madeline R. Vann, MPH.
  • What is Postpartum Psychosis ?.

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