Some Information on Postpartum Psychosis

In the last week or so, I have received many questions from moms in my office, colleagues, and friends about the differences between Postpartum Depression and Postpartum Psychosis.  So, I thought I'd take a moment to clarify the difference. While moms who have Postpartum Psychosis are likely to have symptoms of depression and anxiety, Postpartum Psychosis is considered a different mental health diagnosis than Postpartum Depression and Postpartum Anxiety.  Postpartum Depression is known to affect approximately 20% moms who give birth (1 in 5 moms), and it is considered to be the most common complication of childbirth.  Postpartum Psychosis, on the other hand,  is incredibly rare and is thought to affect approximately 1-2 of every  in 1000 women who deliver (approximately .01%).  There is a 5% infanticide and suicide rate for those women who develop Postpartum Psychosis.  The onset of Postpartum Psychosis is usually sudden and most often occurs within the first few weeks postpartum.  The greatest known risk factors for developing PPP include a personal or family history of bipolar disorder or a previous psychotic episode.  Symptoms of PPP are  considered an emergency and PPP requires immediate medical attention.

Some of the symptoms of Postpartum Psychosis that are also listed on the Postpartum Support International Site include:

- Hallucinations (seeing things that are not there)

- Delusions and strange thoughts


-Decreased need for or inability to sleep

-Paranoia and Suspiciousness

-Rapid Mood Swings

-Difficulty communicating at times

Often in the case of PPP, family and friends will be the first to notice that something is going on for a mom with PPP that needs immediate attention.  Often these moms will be "acting strangely" or seem totally unlike themselves.  Moms with Postpartum Psychosis are often not in touch with reality, and so they may not acknowledge that they are in great trouble.

Katherine Stone from Postpartum Progress writes a fabulous piece about PPP tiled: The Symptoms of Postpartum Psychosis (In Plain Mama English).  You can read that story here.

It is important to note that PPP is absolutely temporary and treatable.  Because it is a biochemical issue, medication is required in the treatment.   With this said, Moms who develop Postpartum Psychosis do get better and go on to live happy and healthy lives after they recover.

And finally, many moms who walk into my office are afraid that they have PPP or are going to develop psychosis.  Please remember that usually moms who develop PPP are not in touch with reality and are not aware that something is wrong.  If you are seeking out help and are attuned to the fact that you are struggling, you are most likely not suffering from PPP.  While Postpartum Depression and Postpartum Anxiety (especially Postpartum OCD which involves often obsessive and scary thoughts of harm coming to one's baby) can be hugely scary, unsettling, and intolerable for many moms, these challenges are very different from Postpartum Psychosis.  Again, Postpartum Psychosis is incredibly rare.

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