Postnatal psychosis

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Postnatal pyschosis occurs in 2/1000 mothers and needs immediate medical treatment. What exactly is it?

Postnatal psychosis

Postnatal psychosis

Postnatal psychosis

Postnatal psychosis (puerperal psychosis) is a mental illness, which involves the rapid onset of psevere sychotic symptoms in a woman after childbirth.

It can occur in just about any normal woman, living in normal circumstances. There does not have to be a previous history of mental illness in order to get it.

The illness usually occurs in the first three months after childbirth, with most occurring in the first two weeks. The first ones to notice that something is wrong are usually family members.

While similar to postpartum depression, it is actually a different disorder and is much less common. It occurs in 2/1000 mothers and needs immediate medical treatment.

What are the Symptoms?

Symptoms vary from person to person, but the most common according to Dr Pamela Chan Siew Ling, psychologist, Camden Medical Centre Singapore, are:

  • Depressed mood
  • Anxious
  • Tiredness
  • Psychomotor retardation or agitation
  • Depressive cognitions
  • Poor concentration
  • Indecisiveness
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia
  • Suspiciousness
  • Incoherence or confusion
  • Irrational statements
  • Obsessive concern about baby’s health / welfare
  • Thoughts of harming self / baby
  • Delusions that baby is not normal
  • Hallucinations of voices telling her to harm baby

What are the Treatments?

Postnatal psychosis is treatable. If you have it, you will probably be prescribed antidepressant medication (e.g. prothiaden) or antipsychotics (e.g. haloperidol, chlorpromazine).

You might have to be admitted to hospital and in more severe cases, electroconvulsive therapy will be used in order to rapidly enable the mother to resume the care of her new baby.

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