Postpartum Psychosis

Postpartum psychosis is a rare condition in which an individual who has just given birth experiences sudden, severe psychiatric symptoms.

This condition usually starts between a few days and four weeks after the baby is born. People experiencing postpartum psychosis generally experience delusions and/or hallucinations, sometimes without having ever had a psychotic episode in the past.

It’s very common for new parents to experience mental health challenges after the birth of a child, but postpartum psychosis is an especially acute condition that requires immediate, intensive treatment.

How common is postpartum psychosis?

Compared to other conditions that occur after the birth of a child (such as postpartum depression), postpartum psychosis is very rare.

According to Postpartum Support International, postpartum psychosis occurs after only about .1-.2% of all births. Put differently, 1 or 2 out of every 1,000 pregnancies might lead to postpartum psychosis.

Postpartum psychosis is also somewhat more common among women who have previously been diagnosed with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.

What are some symptoms of postpartum psychosis?

Symptoms of postpartum psychosis can vary, but they are often sudden and quite noticeable. Common symptoms include:

It’s important to note that these symptoms start within the first few weeks after the baby’s birth, and that they often require immediate treatment.

Postpartum psychosis is generally unique in that it includes delusions and/or hallucinations.

However, it can also overlap to some extent with these other conditions that can stem from pregnancy and/or childbirth:

What to do if you or a loved one is experiencing postpartum psychosis

Postpartum psychosis should generally be viewed as a psychiatric crisis.

Postpartum psychosis is treatable and usually temporary, but in most cases, it is necessary to seek medical treatment immediately, starting with a visit to the emergency room.

Some of the following treatment options may be effective for postpartum psychosis:

What should I look for in a therapist for postpartum psychosis?

The most important thing is to seek treatment immediately from a hospital or other medical provider. Postpartum psychosis usually involves hospitalization and/or medication in the short term.

In the long term, you may also want to work with a therapist to process your experience and work through any symptoms that remain. In this case, you’ll want to make sure that your therapist is qualified to treat people who have experienced postpartum psychosis. This will usually involve:

Finally, as with any therapy, it’s important to make sure that your therapist is a good fit for your unique needs. Be sure to evaluate the following in your initial calls with therapists: