Learn more about this rare but serious post-partum psychiatric illness.
By Dr Janice TUNG,
Associate Consultant and Associate Professor Tan Thiam Chye, Visiting Consultant, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, KK Women's and Children's Hospital
While most mums embrace motherhood with positivity and love, some women may struggle to find the joy. Postnatal emotional issues can range from postnatal blues and depression to the more serious postnatal psychosis. Find out more about this rare condition:
It's a severe but rare form of post-partum psychiatric illness. One to two people out of every 1000 women after childbirth might be affected. Also known as puerperal psychosis, this condition usually presents itself within two to four weeks after delivery. There's no known cause but women with a history of bipolar disorder or who have experienced postnatal psychosis before are at higher risk.
Understanding Postnatal Depression
Women who suffer from this exhibit symptoms like restlessness, irritability, confusion and insomnia. Another warning sign is a rapid shift in mood — the person could be depressed one moment and euphoric the next — and she will also behave in a disorganised manner. She may also have delusional thoughts, hear voices or see things that are not real.
Baby Blues and Depression
Postnatal blues and depression occur more frequently than postnatal psychosis. Up to 66 percent of women go through postnatal blues while 10 percent of women suffer from postnatal depression. Symptoms include low mood, irritability, poor sleep, tiredness and a loss of interest in activities, although on a less severe scale compared to postnatal psychosis. Some may also feel anxious and hold negative feelings towards the baby. However, they do not hear or see things that are not real.
Dealing with Baby Blues
Seek immediate help from a doctor or a trained mental health expert if you know of a mother showing this behaviour, as this is considered a psychiatric emergency. There is a high risk of harm to both mummy and child. Treatment includes antipsychotic medications, antidepressants and mood stabilisers. The child may need to be separated from the mother while she recovers, as a safety precaution. After the mother recovers, there should be a period of follow-up in case of a recurrence or relapse.
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The New Art and Science of Pregnancy and Childbirth 2008, World Scientific
This article was last reviewed on
22 Nov 2023
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