Psychosis is a serious mental illness characterized by a violation of the ability to distinguish between fantasy and reality and to adequately assess what is happening. Furthermore, psychosis is a general term used to describe specific types of serious mental health problems.
Any type of psychosis causes great harm to the life of the sick child. Psychosis, as a rule, creates problems with the organization of thinking, the correct use of language, the control of impulses – behaviour according to social norms, the expression of feelings, and relationships with other people.
It is difficult to describe “typical” psychotic behaviour because it can take a lot of different forms… One of the most obvious signs of psychotic behaviour is hallucinations, in which the sick child sees, hears, touches, tastes, And smells what doesn’t exist. Another telltale sign is delusions – a misinterpretation of intentions or the meaning of what really exists. Similar (albeit less revealing) behaviors include coming up with words, laughing at things that are not funny or unpleasant at all, causing intense annoyance or no reason at all.
Postpartum psychosis is also known as puerperal psychosis or postpartum onset bipolar disorder. It is a mental illness that affects young mothers soon after childbirth. It is a rare condition, but it is a serious mental illness in which the mother experiences great difficulty in responding emotionally to the newborn. This condition can start suddenly after childbirth and can be a frightening experience for family and friends. Even though it is a rare mental illness, there are many women around the world who suffer from postpartum psychosis.
When does postpartum psychosis occur and who is more prone to get it?
Postpartum psychosis can happen to any woman out of the blue after giving birth. Many women experience mood swings for a few days. This condition is called ‘baby blues. This is normal and very different from postpartum psychosis. According to a report published in January 2014 in the Psychiatric Times, 1 to 2 out of every 1000 new mothers may have postpartum psychosis.
Causes of postpartum psychosis?
There is no definite cause or causes of postpartum psychosis. Some of the potential postpartum psychosis risk factors may be sudden changes in hormones after pregnancy. This is due to hormones as the body experiences dramatic changes during pregnancy. Other researchers suggest that becoming a mother at an early age also increases the risk of postpartum psychosis. A mother already diagnosed with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder should seek the help of a specialist if pregnant as the chances of suffering from postpartum psychosis are 25 to 50% higher.
Although at times, genetic factors are responsible for the condition, it is important to note that half of the cases occur in women who have no previous or family history of psychiatric illness. Postpartum psychosis is more commonly seen in cases where a relative, such as the patient’s sister or mother, has had a similar complaint. For first-time moms, trauma can happen after birth. Mothers who have had preterm labour are more likely to have the same problem later on with babies.
Most Common Symptoms of Puerperal Psychosis
Puerperal psychosis is a mental illness and can be potentially dangerous for mother and baby. It is essential for family and friends to observe the symptoms of postpartum psychosis and consult a specialist at the slightest sign of a disorder.
Some of the hallmarks of postpartum psychosis are as follows:
- There is a constant feeling of being overwhelmed. It can be extreme for mom to feel anxious all the time. A woman is frustrated or dissatisfied with the way she acts like a mother.
- There is a frightening feeling of sadness and emptiness. Mother feels the need to cry all the time for no reason.
- One cannot understand what is happening around and is always feeling confused and scared.
- The mother does not feel that she shares a bond with the child.
- Some may exhibit hallucinations and delusions along with being in a miserable condition.
- Other typical symptoms include trouble sleeping, euphoria, tearfulness, irritability, and violence.
- insomnia; I don’t feel the need to sleep.
- Sudden thoughts of harming the baby.
- Lack of emotional response towards the infant or anyone.
- Suicidal thoughts and feeling that the child would be better off without the mother.
- Strange behavior towards everyone, one that is clearly not normal.
- Sudden changes in mood and loss of touch with reality.
How is postpartum psychosis treated?
Family and spouse play a very important role in helping a sick mother. A woman with postpartum psychosis should be taken to a specialist immediately. Severe symptoms require the patient to take anti-psychotic drugs or mood stabilizers under the supervision of a doctor. The patient should be hospitalized for complete care. In this case, the child and the mother should be placed together so that the mother is with the child while he is being treated. But in some extreme situations, breastfeeding is not recommended for the safety of the baby. Women with postpartum psychosis also need to bond with the baby while they are treated. Frequent communication with psychiatric doctors and taking appropriate medication will help the mother overcome the condition and lead a healthy and normal life.
Also check out: Post-partum Depression: Symptoms & Effects on Mother and Father
Difference between postpartum psychosis and postpartum depression
Postpartum psychosis is a serious illness, whereas postpartum depression or ‘baby blues’ refers to the mild mood swings that many women experience. The baby blues affect more than half of new moms and usually start 3 to 4 days after the baby is born. The condition improves by the time the baby is 10 days old and does not require treatment. Symptoms are mild compared to postpartum psychosis. The mother may exhibit mood swings such as bursting into tears easily, over-reacting or being sensitive at times. The condition resolves on its own after a few days, but postpartum psychosis requires medical attention. The affected mother’s family needs to be attentive to identify the disorder and call for medical help.
How Can Puerperal Psychosis Be Prevented?
Yes, postpartum psychosis can be prevented. A meeting with a prenatal psychiatrist can happen at about 32 weeks of pregnancy to assess the likelihood and symptoms of it. There are dire consequences for not taking immediate steps in this situation. If you notice the above or any other symptom which you think is not normal, it is best to seek medical advice for the same. Management of postpartum psychosis is possible, and therefore, it is important to take the right steps at the right time.
This is a rare problem and does not affect all mothers. However, family members need to be vigilant as early detection can help prevent psychosis from progressing.
Feature Image credits: Medical News Today