Post-Partum Psychosis in the Modern Day

I found this article on post-partum psychosis at the BBC.  Some highlights:

  • Post-partum psychosis affects about one in 500 mothers (another source says 1 in 1000).
  • Relationship problems, stress, or the baby being unwanted do not cause postpartum psychosis.
  • “If you have ever had a diagnosis of bipolar disorder or schizoaffective disorder, your risk of postpartum psychosis is high. You may also be in this high risk group if you have had a diagnosis of schizophrenia or another psychotic illness.”

Somewhere in the episodes of my first year, my mother was diagnosed with “paranoid schizophrenia,” is what I was always told.

  • “Some mothers have difficulty bonding with their babies after an episode of postpartum psychosis. Usually these problems don’t last long. Most women who have had postpartum psychosis go on to have very good relationships with their babies.”

To me this is a red flag:  while it does say that “most mothers” get over this bonding problem, there were a lot of things about my mother’s illness that were not standard.  One in particular is that she wasn’t hospitalized until around the holiday season, which was at least 7 months after I was born in early April.

I will also note here that this timing meant that my mother would have had plenty of help with the chores over the summer, until the older kids went back to school in the fall, at which point my mother would have been expected to do her own job again.

  • It can take 6 -12 months or more to recover from postpartum psychosis. The most severe symptoms tend to last 2 to 12 weeks. The vast majority of women will recover fully. You may have further episodes of illness at a later time.
  • Over half of women with postpartum psychosis will have a further episode of illness not related to childbirth.
  • ECT or electroconvulsive therapy is still being used to relieve severe depression.

The TV program isn’t available online yet but should be here soon.