Q15. Postpartum psychosis
Postpartum psychosis (or puerperal psychosis) is a term that covers a group of mental illnesses with the sudden onset of psychotic symptoms following childbirth.
These psychoses are endogenous, heritable illnesses with acute onset, benign episodic course and response to mood-normalizing and mood-stabilizing treatments. The onset is abrupt, and symptoms rapidly reach a climax of severity.
Some women have typical manic symptoms, such as euphoria, overactivity, decreased sleep requirement, loquaciousness, flight of ideas, increased sociability, disinhibition, irritability, violence and delusions, which are usually grandiose or religious in content; on the whole these symptoms are more severe than in mania occurring at other times, with highly disorganized speech and extreme excitement. Others have severe depression with delusions, auditory hallucinations, mutism, stupor or transient swings into hypomania.
Often, out of fear of stigma or misunderstanding, women hide their condition. Two steps that can be taken to mitigate this risk are:
- The taking of a thorough, detailed history prior to giving birth by a competent professional, and
- Education of medical care professionals, expectant women and their families.
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