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Perinatal mental health

Perinatal mental health (PMH) concerns a woman’s emotional and psychological wellbeing during pregnancy and up to around three years after giving birth. It covers all mental health problems associated with pregnancy, birth and beyond. These include pre and postnatal depression, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and postpartum psychosis.

Postpartum psychosis

Postpartum psychosis is a rare but serious mental health illness that can affect women soon after giving birth. It’s also known as puerperal or postnatal psychosis.

What are the symptoms of postpartum psychosis?

  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • A manic or low mood
  • Loss of inhibitions
  • Feeling fearful or suspicious
  • Confusion
  • Behaving out of character
  • Restlessness

Causes

The causes of postpartum psychosis are unknown but risk factors include:

  • Having a family history of mental health illness, particularly postpartum psychosis
  • A traumatic birth or pregnancy
  • Developing the same illness after a previous pregnancy
  • Already being diagnosed with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia

Treatment

Most women suffering from postpartum psychosis need to be given specialist psychiatric treatment in hospital, ideally with their baby in a mother and baby unit. It can take between six and 12 months or longer to recover from the condition, but with treatment most women make a full recovery.

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