What is Postpartum Psychosis?

What is Postpartum Psychosis?

This postpartum mood disorder is rare but incredibly serious.

By Liz Krieger

When it comes to postpartum mood disorders, we often hear about postpartum depression (PPD), which makes sense, considering the CDC estimates that up to 1 in 5 new mothers experience various degrees of it. A much more rare but also much more extreme postpartum mood disorder is one that many new moms have never even heard of: postpartum psychosis.

Postpartum Psychosis

Postpartum psychosis is the most severe form of postpartum psychiatric illness. It is a rare event that occurs in about 1 to 2 per 1,000 women after childbirth. It can come on suddenly, dramatically— the onset of symptoms can occur as early as the first 48 to 72 hours after delivery; the majority of women who have postpartum psychosis develop symptoms within the first two weeks.

The earliest signs are restlessness, irritability, and insomnia. Before you diagnose yourself (because those symptoms also may show up for less severe mood issues like postpartum depression or anxiety), know that women with postpartum psychosis exhibit a rapidly shifting depressed or elated mood, disorientation or confusion, and erratic or disorganized behavior. Delusional or irrational beliefs are common—and they are often centered around the infant’s health or behavior. Hearing hallucinations that instruct the mother to harm herself or her infant may also occur.

If you or the new mom in your life experience any of the above feelings or symptoms, it’s vital to reach out to your doctor. If you have thoughts of hurting yourself, your baby, or others, call the 24-hour Suicide Lifeline right now at (800) 273-8255 or (800) 273-(TALK).