Postpartum Psychosis and Depression

Postpartum psychosis is a mental disorder that occurs several days after the birth of a baby. This condition can also occur in a woman who has given birth to a dead child or after a miscarriage.

Sometimes a woman can get sick and several weeks after giving birth. Fortunately, this disease is quite rare: it affects 0.1-1.2% of women in labor.

Symptoms and Causes

Postpartum psychosis can take possession of a woman who has never before suffered from mental disorders. But nevertheless, an increased risk threatens those women in labor who previously suffered from schizophrenia and other mental illnesses, as well as those who already had postpartum psychosis.
Symptoms of this disease are characterized by diversity and variability.

Postpartum psychosis can manifest itself in the form of:

  • depression and tearfulness;
  • anxiety and restlessness;
  • excitement and irritability;
  • suspicion and fear;
  • incoherent speech and loss of appetite;
  • increased child care or indifference to him;
  • excessive sociability and talkativeness;
  • attempts to avoid communicating with other people;
  • alternating the two previous symptoms;
  • euphoria and extreme liveliness;
  • sudden changes in mood and insomnia;
  • confusion and lack of concentration;
  • hallucinations and unusual behavior;
  • lack of adequate self-esteem;
  • lack of ability to really assess the situation;
  • crazy ideas and abnormal thinking;
  • manic manifestations: paranoia or megalomania;
  • thoughts of murder or suicide.

What are the causes of this disease? Nobody has managed to determine them yet. But it is reliably known that family problems do not affect the development of the disease. Among the causes most often called complications during childbirth, emotional stress from the birth of a child, a genetic predisposition, changes in the hormonal background, changes in sleep patterns, drug use, the presence of mental illness.

Postpartum Psychosis and Depression: Differences and Similarities

Postpartum depression is much more common than postpartum psychosis. She is subject to about 10-15% of women in labor. Symptoms of postpartum depression are not as serious as postpartum psychosis, but they also cannot be ignored.

For postpartum depression, a manifestation is characteristic:

  • depression and guilt;
  • unwillingness and inability to do anything;
  • loss of interest in everything, including the child.

The cause of postpartum depression, in contrast to postpartum psychosis, is most often family problems: lack of understanding and support in the family, health problems in the child.

A woman who has just given birth to a child often does not manage to cope with the duties that have appeared and because of this begins to feel guilty. In such cases, she can completely immerse herself in the care of the newborn, discarding all other duties, or completely abandon the care of the child. A young mother feels emotional emptiness and constant anxiety, often crying, losing her appetite and losing weight dramatically. Sometimes postpartum depression may be accompanied by thoughts of suicide.

Typically, postpartum depression, unlike postpartum psychosis, goes away without medical attention. Especially important in this case is the care and help of loved ones. But in severe cases, especially when thoughts of suicide appear, antidepressant treatment is required, and sometimes hospitalization. If antidepressants are purchased as prescribed by a specialist, then during their use it is allowed to breastfeed.

Diagnosis and treatment

If close women in labor noticed any symptoms of postpartum psychosis, they should show the woman to the doctor. In most cases, the woman in labor does not recognize her illness. Therefore, first of all, close women should realize the seriousness of the situation. They need to make every effort to convince the patient of the need for examination. Although it is very difficult to cope with this task, but later the woman will understand that she was mistaken and will be grateful for the help and care.

Unfortunately, often the relatives of a woman do not pay much attention to psychosis, considering this condition to be temporary. But if you do not start treatment in a timely manner, then the disease can drag on for a long time. In addition, later treatment reduces the possibility of complete healing.

In general, postpartum psychosis requires inpatient treatment. Joint placement with a child is desirable. But due to the lack of specially equipped wards in most hospitals, women in labor are mostly hospitalized alone.

Before prescribing the medicine, the doctor prescribes the patient a complete medical examination and sends her to take tests. Only after receiving the results is treatment prescribed.

To alleviate the patient’s condition, treatment is performed with the help of antipsychotic drugs that can be combined with mood stabilizers. While taking these medicines, breast-feeding is contraindicated. Often women refuse pills. In such cases, intramuscular or intravenous administration of drugs is used.

Drug treatment is combined with psychotherapy. Sometimes the therapist collaborates with a family psychologist who deals with all family members. The help and attention of loved ones is important in the recovery of the patient, which significantly increases the effectiveness of treatment.

After normalizing the condition, the partner and all family members must provide the young mother with special care so that the psychosis does not again take possession of the woman.

After the woman returns home, they are required to:

  • to be patient and calm;
  • take time to listen to a woman;
  • take on household chores, and provide the woman with the opportunity to rest;
  • to deal with a child: in no case leave a woman in childbirth alone with the child;
  • Do not leave a woman unattended;
  • Do not invite guests and keep quiet.

The most severe symptoms usually disappear within 0.5-3 months, but it will take from six months to a year for a postpartum psychosis to completely leave the woman.


The question arises: “Is it possible to prevent the manifestation of postpartum psychosis?” It will not be possible to completely avoid the risk, but in order to reduce it, it is necessary that the pregnant woman constantly feels the care and help of all family members, is not exposed to stress and gets enough sleep. Attention should be paid to the physical and psychological preparation of a woman for the appearance of a new family member.

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