Having a baby is a life-altering decision. Once the baby is here, your life changes in its entirety. You feel emotions that you never had before. Your aspirations change. Your direction in life changes. Even your personality changes. But these changes do not always have to be positive. Sometimes, a baby can also cause severe mental health issues in new mothers.
What is postpartum psychosis?
While postpartum depression and baby blues are more common terms, postpartum psychosis is not. In a medical emergency, postpartum psychosis is when a new mother loses touch with reality.
They start to hear voices, experience hallucinations and become delusional. Mothers who have postpartum psychosis may harm themselves or even the baby. Getting urgent help is not just important for their safety and that of the baby, earlier treatment is also better for the patient's prognosis.
What are the symptoms of postpartum psychosis?
Postpartum psychosis presents the following symptoms:
Behavioral changes: Postpartum psychosis causes women to exhibit erratic behavior. Many of the behavioral changes also appear uncharacteristic. They also become less inhabited.
Disorientation: As psychosis causes detachment from reality, therefore, it leads to women feeling disorientated. They have a poor conception of time and place as well.
Delusions: A hallmark of psychosis are delusional thoughts. More common delusions are about someone trying to harm them, the baby or the baby is trying to harm them.
Hallucinations: Women may hear things that are not there. These auditory hallucinations may be ones guiding them to harm themselves or the baby.
Irritability: One of the earlier signs of postpartum psychosis is an irritable disposition.
Mood swings: While mood swings are also part of postpartum depression, those with psychosis have rapidly changing moods; happy one minute and sad the next. These moods are also rather extreme.
Low mood: Apart from mood swings, postpartum psychosis also causes women to feel depressed. They then appear down, teary, anxious, lethargic, and withdrawn.
Sleep problems and restlessness: Women in their initial phase may also have sleep issues and overall restlessness.
Violent behavior or thoughts: During an episode of psychosis, women may think violent thoughts, or go on to exhibit them as well. Many times, these thoughts revolve around the baby.
What are the risk factors for postpartum psychosis?
Some women have a higher risk of postpartum psychosis. These include:
Mental health problems: Certain mental health problems like schizophrenia, bipolar and depression increase the risk for postpartum psychosis. Trauma or stress can also cause postpartum psychosis.
Others: Brain tumors, medication, and substance abuse can also trigger postpartum psychosis.
What is the treatment for postpartum psychosis?
A medical emergency, postpartum psychosis requires urgent medical intervention. Otherwise, the patient might harm themselves, baby or attempt suicide. Patients generally have to spend some time at the hospital to be stabilized.
The treatment for postpartum psychosis is a composite of medication, the combination of which varies from person to person. Medicines that are used include antipsychotic medicines and mood stabilizers. Similarly, therapy can also be of help.
If the psychosis symptoms do not improve even after the medication and therapy, doctors might then administer electroconvulsive shock therapy, EC T.