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Postpartum psychosis (PP) is a rare and severe psychiatric illness. One to two women out of every 1,000 women who deliver a baby will experience psychosis each year. It usually begins in the first 6 weeks postpartum, however, symptoms can begin as early as the first 48 to 72 hours after delivery.

What causes PP?
The cause of PP is not known, however research has found links with thyroid dysfunction and autoimmune dysregulation. Women who have bipolar disorder or another psychiatric problems (such as schizoaffective disorder) have a higher risk for developing postpartum psychosis. Additional risk factors include a lack of social support and having a history of trauma.

What are the symptoms of PP?
The earliest signs of PP are restlessness, irritability, and insomnia. Delusional beliefs are common and often center on the baby. Some women hear voices that instruct them to harm herself or her baby. Additional symptoms may include:

  • Obsessive thoughts about the baby
  • Rapid mood swings from depression, to irritability, to euphoria (extreme happiness)
  • Disorientation 
  • Confusion
  • Erratic or disorganized behavior

How is PP treated?
PP is considered an emergency requiring urgent evaluation and possible hospitalization. A rapid and accurate diagnosis is important to allow for a quick, full recovery and prevention of future episodes. 

Sources:
Bergink V, Kushner SA, Pop V, et al. Prevalence of autoimmune thyroid dysfunction in postpartum psychosis. Br J Psychiatry. 2011;198(4):264-268. doi:10.1192/bjp.bp.110.082990. 34.

Bergink C, Armangue T, Titulaer MJ, Markx S, Dalmau J, Kushner SA. Autoimmune encephalitis in postpartum psychosis. Am J Psychiatry. 2015;172(9):901-908. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.2015.14101332. 35.

Read J, Fosse R, Moskowitz A, Perry B. The traumagenic neurodevelopmental model of psychosis revisited. Neuropsychiatry. 2014;4(1):65-79. doi:10.2217/npy.13.89.


Please remember this information is intended for educational purposes only and should not substitute medical advice from a healthcare provider.