Guest author: Vanessa Liney
Hi Ladies, hope you’re all well.
By writing a blog solely based on the health and well-being in pregnancy, I feel I have an obligation to convey this subject more than any other. However, that’s not to say I feel I must convey it, but rather I want to, so maybe obligation isn’t the right word but I hope you get my meaning.
Maternal mental illness or perinatal mental health is a subject close to my heart and a subject that I’m very conscious of. After all, it is a fundamental element of pregnancy and we should be able to source the support and have the necessary information readily available to us.
The week was led by the Perinatal Mental Health Partnership (PMHP).
Across the partnership, charities and organizations ran exciting and interesting events to celebrate the week and support mums and their families.
During the week, PMHP focused on how and where mums can seek help and support for their mental health. Women and their family and friends need to know where they can find help and support for perinatal mental health problems. To help with this, PMHP had themed days on their social media channels.
If you want to keep up with information, follow PMHP on Facebook or on Twitter @pmhpuk.
Maternal mental illness covers a broad spectrum of conditions for women throughout pregnancy and for the first year following the birth of their baby.
The “baby blues” affects up to 75 percent of new mothers in the first few days following giving birth. I haven’t cried as much as I did for the first week following the birth of both my children. I have a friend who told me that she cried uncontrollably because she couldn’t get the plug out of the bath after the birth of her child. Thankfully for most women these symptoms of low mood and uncontrollable crying are temporary and pass with time.
However, when these symptoms progress for weeks and months after the birth then treatment is often required as its likely postnatal depression. The correct medication, therapy and support is paramount. Approximately one in 10 new mothers are diagnosed with post-natal depression and emotional signs may include but are not limited to:
- Loss of interest in the baby
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Not being able to stop crying
- Feelings of not being able to cope
- Not being able to enjoy anything
- Memory loss or being unable to concentrate
- Excessive anxiety about the baby
The following information has been sourced direct from www.nhs.uk
What are the symptoms of postpartum psychosis?
Most women with postpartum psychosis will experience psychosis (a “psychotic episode”) and other symptoms very soon after giving birth, usually within the first two weeks.
Some women develop symptoms later than this, sometimes at the time they stop breastfeeding, or when their periods restart.
Psychosis causes people to perceive or interpret things differently from those around them. The two main symptoms are:
- Hallucinations: Usually hearing or seeing things that aren’t there; a common hallucination is hearing voices.
- Delusions: Thoughts or beliefs that are unlikely to be true (for example believing you’ve won the lottery).
The combination of hallucinations and delusional thinking can severely disrupt her perception, thinking, emotions and behavior.
A woman with postpartum psychosis may also behave in a way that is out of character, and may experience:
- A high mood (mania): She may talk and think too much or too quickly, feel “on top of the world,” or be more sociable than normal.
- A loss of inhibitions
- Paranoia: feeling suspicious or fearful.
- Restlessness or agitation
- A low mood: She may show signs of depression and be withdrawn or tearful, with a lack of energy, loss of appetite, anxiety, irritability or trouble sleeping.
- Severe confusion: Her mood may change rapidly. Some affected women experience symptoms of mania and depression at the same time.
How serious can it be?
Postpartum psychosis is a serious mental illness that should be treated as a medical emergency.
If not treated immediately, the postpartum psychosis can get worse rapidly.
The illness could cause her to neglect or harm her baby or harm herself.
She may not realize she is ill and it may be up to her partner, family or friends to spot the warning signs and take action. For example, see “What should I do if I think someone may have developed postpartum psychosis?”
Many women with postpartum psychosis make a full recovery and often very quickly provided they receive the right treatment.
Who is at risk of postpartum psychosis?
Postpartum psychosis is more likely to affect women who:
- Have had postpartum psychosis before
- Already have a serious mental health condition, such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia
- Have a relative who has experienced psychosis (even if the woman herself has no mental illness)
Once a woman develops postpartum psychosis, there’s a high chance she will have another episode following future pregnancies.
What should I do if I think someone may have developed postpartum psychosis?
Contact your GP immediately if you think someone you know may have developed postnatal psychosis.
If this isn’t possible, call NHS 111, 911 in the U.S., or your local out-of-hours service.
If you think there’s a danger of imminent harm, call for an ambulance.
What should I do if I think I’m having an episode?
If you already have a care plan because you’ve been assessed to be at high risk, there should be an emergency number you can call to reach a crisis team.
If you don’t have a care plan, and think you’re having a psychotic episode, see your GP urgently or go to the emergency room.
How is postpartum psychosis treated?
Postpartum psychosis is a psychiatric emergency. The woman may need to be admitted to hospital for treatment.
Ideally, she would be admitted with her baby to a specialist psychiatric unit called a mother and baby unit. For some women, this allows them to continue bonding with their baby and gives them confidence in their role as mother.
Look after yourselves ladies and look out for each other.
Vanessa Liney is a wife and very proud mum to two gorgeous children. She is also the creator of The Pregnancy Pantry blog, a site dedicated to nutrition, recipes and a blend of lifestyle, well-being and health throughout pregnancy.