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What is Postpartum Psychosis? Symptoms, Risks, & Treatment

Postpartum psychosis is a severe mental health condition that can occur after childbirth, affecting about 1 to 2 women per 1,000 births. It is characterized by symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions, and severe mood disturbances. Immediate medical attention is crucial for proper diagnosis and treatment to ensure the well-being of both the mother and the newborn. Continue reading more to learn the symptoms, causes, risks, and effective treatment options for postpartum psychosis.


What is Postpartum Psychosis?

Childbirth is a significant stressor for women, causing physical, emotional, and social challenges. In the days to weeks after giving birth, most women may experience mood swings or mild depression (post-baby blues). However, some can also face more severe mental health issues like PTSD, major depression, or even postpartum psychosis.

This painful condition, affecting 1 to 2 in 1,000 women, involves extreme confusion, loss of touch with reality, paranoia, and hallucinations.

Postpartum psychosis is a mental health emergency because people experiencing it face a higher risk of harming themselves or posing a threat to their children. It’s crucial to seek immediate medical attention and possible hospitalization or inpatient treatment if there’s a risk of suicide or harm to the newborn.

If you or your loved one is experiencing the symptoms of postpartum psychosis, seek professional help immediately. Contact We Level Up Florida for compassionate support. Each call is free and confidential. 

Who’s at Higher Risk of Postpartum Psychosis?

Postpartum psychosis can occur in anyone who has recently given birth, typically within a few days to six weeks after delivery. The risk is higher for those with specific mental health conditions.

What Causes Postpartum Psychosis?

The most common causes and risk factors of postpartum psychosis include the following:

  • History of bipolar disorder.
  • Previous postpartum psychosis.
  • Family history of psychosis or bipolar disorder.
  • Discontinuation of psychiatric medications during pregnancy
  • Affective disorders like bipolar I.
  • First-time pregnancy with a history of bipolar I disorder.
  • Lack of sleep.
  • Hormonal fluctuations, especially rapidly falling estrogen levels after birth.
  • Sleep loss triggers manic episodes.
  • Women with bipolar disorder who are experiencing sleep deprivation leading to manic episodes.

Manic episodes due to sleep loss have been identified as a significant risk factor. Women reporting such episodes are twice as likely to experience postpartum psychosis at some point when they’re sleep-deprived.

What are the Most Common Postpartum Psychosis Symptoms?

The symptoms of postpartum psychosis are categorized into three subtypes. These symptoms can escalate rapidly, and it’s crucial to seek immediate medical attention for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Depressive Postpartum Psychosis Symptoms

The most common and risky type of postpartum psychosis is the depressive subtype. It often involves hallucinations or delusions instructing harm to the baby. Cases of self-harm or harm to the newborn are primarily associated with this type.

If you have depressive postpartum psychosis, you may:

  • Experience anxiety or panic.
  • Have delusions or hallucinations.
  • Feel guilty.
  • Lose your appetite.
  • Lack of enjoyment in things that used to bring happiness.
  • Experience thoughts of harming yourself and your baby or having suicidal thoughts.

Manic Postpartum Psychosis Symptoms

This is the next common type of postpartum psychosis. The risk of harm to you or your baby is still present, but it’s lower than with the depressive type. If you have manic postpartum psychosis, you may:

  • Feel irritable or agitated.
  • Talk more than usual, faster, or both.
  • Behave aggressively or disruptively.
  • Lack of sleep.
  • Experience delusions of greatness, such as believing your child is a religious figure.

Atypical Postpartum Psychosis Symptoms

This is the least common type of postpartum psychosis. If you have this, you may appear unaware of things happening around you. You might also:

  • Speak or act in a disorganized manner.
  • Appear disoriented or confused.
  • Experience hallucinations or delusions.
  • Say or do inappropriate things.
  • Stop speaking altogether, known as catatonia.

Since women with postpartum psychosis may not realize they have the condition, it’s often family and loved ones who notice these symptoms. If you suspect a loved one has postpartum psychosis, promptly seek medical help for them.

While it can be distressing to witness someone experiencing this condition, taking swift action can ensure the safety of both the individual and their newborn, allowing for recovery and a return to normalcy with the new family member.

Get postpartum psychosis counseling from We Level Up Florida’s mental health therapists. Reach out for professional support with a free call to our 24/7 mental health hotline.

Since women with postpartum psychosis may not realize they have the condition, it's often family and loved ones who notice these symptoms.
Since women with postpartum psychosis may not realize they have the condition, it’s often family and loved ones who notice these symptoms.

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How Common is Postpartum Psychosis?

Postpartum psychosis is a condition that can occur after childbirth, affecting your perception of reality with hallucinations or delusions. It is a rare condition that requires emergency help. In severe cases, there’s a risk of self-harm or harm to the newborn, so if you notice signs in yourself or someone you know, seek help immediately.


320-9,400 Yearly Cases in the US

Postpartum psychosis occurs in 0.089 to 2.6 out of every 1,000 births. In the United States, this translates to 320 to 9,400 postpartum psychosis cases annually.

Source: NIMH

41% Showing Depressive Symptoms

The most common type of postpartum psychosis is the depressive subtype, accounting for about 41% of cases and posing the highest risk.

Source: NIMH

4.5% Child Harm Rate

Research indicates that cases involving self-harm or harm to a child almost always have depressive symptoms and psychosis, particularly hallucinations or delusions instructing harm. This subtype has a child harm rate of about 4.5%, four or five times higher than other subtypes, and a suicide rate of about 5%.

Source: NIMH


We Level Up Florida Mental Health Treatment Center for Postpartum Psychosis

We Level Up Florida specializes in compassionate care for individuals navigating postpartum depression, anxiety, and psychosis. With a team of experienced professionals, we offer personalized treatment plans designed to address the unique challenges associated with postpartum mental health.

Our comprehensive approach combines evidence-based therapies, medication management, and a supportive environment to guide individuals toward recovery. We understand the importance of tailored care, providing a safe space for open communication, and fostering a sense of understanding and healing, including the family members.

Start your journey to healing by reaching out to We Level Up Florida Mental Health Treatment Center. Call us for a free and confidential assessment.

Postpartum Psychosis Treatment Options

Postpartum psychosis is treatable, but due to its rarity, more research is needed to understand the best approaches fully. While some methods are commonly used, inpatient mental healthcare is crucial for individuals facing this condition. This ensures constant support from trained professionals, prioritizing safety and comfort during this mental health emergency.

Inpatient care is the recommended and highest level of support for postpartum psychosis, offering around-the-clock supervision and immediate access to specialized psychiatric care.
Inpatient care is the recommended and highest level of support for postpartum psychosis, offering around-the-clock supervision and immediate access to specialized psychiatric care.

Involuntary Hospitalization or Inpatient Treatment

Psychosis can make individuals unaware of their mental health condition due to disruptions in their sense of reality, and delusions or hallucinations may create fear about seeking help. Inpatient mental healthcare for psychosis is often involuntary, with family or loved ones making the decision when there’s concern about the person’s safety or the safety of others.

Inpatient care provides the highest level of support and intervention for psychiatric conditions, especially those involving psychosis. This comprehensive level of care involves round-the-clock supervision by trained medical professionals to ensure the safety and overall health of individuals experiencing severe mental health challenges.

In an inpatient setting, immediate access to psychiatric expertise, medication management, and therapeutic interventions is available. The structured environment allows for continuous monitoring and adjustment of treatment plans, facilitating a more rapid response to changing needs. The focus on a secure and supportive atmosphere in inpatient care creates an optimal setting for stabilization, intensive therapy, and the development of a personalized path toward mental health recovery.

Postpartum Psychosis Medications

Medications are crucial in treating postpartum psychosis by stabilizing mood and managing symptoms.

Standard antipsychotics like risperidone or olanzapine address hallucinations and delusions, while mood stabilizers such as lithium regulate mood. In some cases, antidepressants may be used for concurrent depressive symptoms.

Healthcare professionals tailor the medication plan based on individual symptoms and medical history, closely monitoring and adjusting to ensure effectiveness with minimal side effects.

Postpartum Psychosis Therapy

Therapy is a critical part of postpartum psychosis treatment, offering emotional support and coping strategies while addressing underlying factors.

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) helps individuals adjust thought patterns and manage stress, while supportive psychotherapy creates a safe space for expressing feelings.
  • Family therapy is essential for building a supportive network and addressing the condition’s impact on relationships.
  • Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is a safe and highly effective method for treating conditions involving psychosis. This treatment uses a mild electrical current passed through the brain to induce a mild seizure, resulting in changes that reduce or resolve the effects of psychosis.
    • Despite its negative portrayal in media, ECT is administered under general anesthesia, ensuring the person is asleep and feels no pain or discomfort during the procedure. Electrodes are placed on the person’s head, and the brief seizures typically last less than two minutes. Most individuals wake up within 15 minutes post-ECT and can resume regular activities shortly after.

The complications and side effects you might experience depend on the treatments and symptoms specific to your situation. Your healthcare provider is the best person to inform you about the most likely risks, complications, or side effects that you may encounter. Furthermore, medications and therapies are always carefully balanced, considering the risks and symptoms.

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Postpartum Psychosis Diagnosis

Diagnosing postpartum psychosis typically involves a combination of medical and mental health evaluations to assess the individual’s symptoms, history, and overall health status. While there isn’t a specific test for postpartum psychosis, healthcare professionals may conduct the following assessments:

  • Clinical Interviews: In-depth discussions with the individual to understand their experiences, emotions, and any symptoms they may be exhibiting.
  • Psychiatric Evaluation: A comprehensive examination by a psychiatrist to assess mental health, including any history of mood disorders, psychosis, or related conditions.
  • Medical History Review: A review of the individual’s medical history, including any pre-existing conditions, medications, and details related to the current pregnancy and childbirth.
  • Blood Tests: Laboratory tests to rule out any underlying medical conditions or hormonal imbalances that may contribute to the symptoms.
  • Thyroid Function Tests: Assessment of thyroid function, as thyroid disorders can impact mental health.
  • MRI or CT Scans: Brain imaging tests to rule out structural abnormalities or neurological conditions associated with psychosis.
  • Postpartum Depression Screening: Given the overlap in symptoms, screening tools may be used to differentiate postpartum psychosis from other perinatal mood disorders.
  • Assessment of Risk Factors: Evaluation of known risk factors, such as personal or family history of mental health disorders, to guide the diagnosis and treatment plan.

The diagnosis process may vary, and healthcare professionals will tailor their approach based on the individual’s situation. The goal is to ensure a comprehensive understanding of the individual’s mental health and to provide appropriate and timely interventions.

How Long Does Postpartum Psychosis Last?

The duration of postpartum psychosis varies for each individual and can be influenced by factors such as prompt intervention, treatment effectiveness, and ongoing support.

Generally, the condition often requires immediate medical attention, and the duration of acute symptoms may range from several days to several weeks. However, the recovery process may take longer, involving ongoing treatment, therapy, and support.

It’s crucial for individuals experiencing psychosis to receive continuous care to manage and mitigate symptoms, promoting a stable and healthy mental state over time. Regular follow-ups with healthcare professionals and proactive management of mental health can contribute to maintaining stability and reducing the chances of a subsequent episode of psychosis.

What Should I Do If My Loved One Shows Signs of Postpartum Psychosis?

Your support is crucial in providing immediate help and facilitating professional intervention. As a close and trusted individual, you can assist in creating a safe space for open communication, encouraging your loved one to express their feelings without judgment. Your presence is essential in ensuring they are not alone during this challenging time, and your ability to seek prompt, professional help can be a lifeline.

You play a vital part in promoting their well-being and recovery by understanding the signs, staying calm, and actively participating in their support network.

Here are the tips that you can do:

  • Seek Immediate Help: If you suspect your loved one is showing signs of postpartum depression, anxiety, or psychosis, seek professional help immediately. This is a mental health emergency that requires swift intervention.
  • Encourage Open Communication: Create a safe and non-judgmental space for your loved one to express their feelings. Please encourage them to share their experiences and fears.
  • Stay Calm and Reassuring: Approach the situation calmly and reassuringly. Reassure your loved one that they are not alone and help is available.
  • Do Not Leave Them Alone: Stay close to your loved one and avoid leaving them alone, especially if there are concerns about self-harm or harm to the baby.
  • Involve Healthcare Professionals: Contact healthcare professionals, including mental health specialists or the emergency services, for immediate assistance.
  • Supportive Environment: Create a supportive environment involving other close friends or family members. Collaborate to ensure a comprehensive support system.
  • Follow Professional Advice: Adhere to the guidance provided by healthcare professionals. Follow through with recommended treatments and interventions.
  • Provide Practical Assistance: Assist with daily tasks and responsibilities, such as childcare or household chores, to alleviate some of the stress on your loved one.
  • Stay Informed: Educate yourself about postpartum psychiatric conditions, such as psychosis and its symptoms. Understanding the condition will enable you to support your loved one better.
  • Encourage Self-Care: Encourage your loved one to engage in self-care activities, promoting overall well-being.

Your proactive and supportive part can significantly contribute to your loved one’s recovery and well-being during this challenging time.

Support your loved one with postpartum psychosis and depression by encouraging them to seek professional help and creating a nurturing environment where they feel heard and understood.
Support your loved one with postpartum psychosis and depression by encouraging them to seek professional help and creating a nurturing environment where they feel heard and understood.

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Tips on How to Prevent Postpartum Psychosis

Preventing postpartum mental health issues involves a combination of awareness, support, and proactive measures. While certain conditions, like postpartum psychosis, may not be entirely preventable due to their unpredictable nature, early recognition and intervention are crucial to lower the risk.

  • Awareness and Education: Educate yourself and your support network about postpartum depression, anxiety, and psychosis, their symptoms, and risk factors.
  • Encourage Rest: Support the new parent in getting adequate rest. Lack of sleep can contribute to mental health challenges, so help create an environment conducive to rest.
  • Balanced Lifestyle: Promote a healthy and balanced lifestyle, including proper nutrition, exercise, and relaxation techniques.
  • Open Communication: Encourage open communication between the new parent and their support system. Create a safe space for them to express their feelings and concerns.
  • Regular Check-ins: Regularly check in on the health of the new parent. Ask about their emotional state, sleep patterns, and overall adjustment to parenthood.
  • Monitor High-Risk Factors: Be vigilant for high-risk factors, such as a history of mental health issues. In such cases, consider involving mental health professionals proactively.
  • Seek Professional Help: If you notice concerning symptoms, encourage the individual to seek professional help early. Prompt intervention can make a significant difference.
  • Build a Support Network: Ensure the new parent has a strong support network. This includes family, friends, and professionals who can assist and understand.
  • Planning: Help the new parent plan for the postpartum period, addressing potential stressors and ensuring a plan is in place for various scenarios.
  • Encourage Self-Care: Emphasize the importance of self-care. Encourage activities that bring them joy and relaxation.

Remember, prevention involves a collective effort from the individual and their support network. If in doubt, seek professional advice to ensure a healthy transition into parenthood.

If you’re struggling with postpartum psychiatric conditions, including depression, anxiety, or psychosis, don’t hesitate to reach out to the We Level Up Florida helpline for dedicated support and guidance.

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