What Is Postpartum Psychosis?
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For many women, having a baby is one of the most wonderful phases of life. But pregnancy and childbirth can take a huge toll on your physical, emotional and mental health. The impact doesn’t stop after giving birth. 

Postpartum psychosis is a rare but serious mental health condition. It can be experienced by individuals after giving birth. It’s characterized by symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions, extreme mood swings and confusion. Postpartum psychosis requires immediate medical attention and treatment.

The basics of postpartum psychosis

Postpartum psychosis refers to a condition where new mothers feel out of touch with their surroundings. It’s a severe disorder that occurs in fewer than 3 out of every 1,000 births, ranging from 0.089 and 2.6 affected. In the U.S., that comes out to anywhere from 320 to 9,400 affected births each year. 

Postpartum psychosis (PPP) is characterized by a variety of symptoms that affect emotional, cognitive and behavioral patterns. The two most prevalent symptoms are hallucinations and delusions. Hallucinations mean that a person is seeing or hearing things that aren’t real. Delusions mean that they have distorted beliefs without any basis in reality.

There are a variety of other signs and symptoms of postpartum psychosis, and they can be classified as depressive, manic or mixed/atypical. All three subtypes also include hallucinations and/or delusions.

Depressive PPP symptoms:

  • Overwhelming sadness
  • Feeling anxious or panicked
  • Suicidality or self-harm

Manic PPP symptoms:

  • Heightened irritability
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Talking fast or excessively

Mixed/atypical PPP symptoms:

  • Disorganized speech
  • Feeling confused or disoriented
  • Inappropriate comments or behaviors

The importance of immediate emergency services for postpartum psychosis

It’s important to remember that while PPP is severe, it’s treatable. The symptoms can completely disappear. Untreated postpartum psychosis can lead to severe consequences for both the mother and the child. 

There’s a suicide rate of approximately 5% of mothers with PPP and a 4% rate of infanticide. Depressive PPP is the most common subtype, making up approximately 41% of cases. It has the highest rate of self-harm, suicidality and harm to the child.

It’s important to seek help for postpartum psychosis (PPP) as soon as possible. It’s a serious condition that can have severe consequences if left untreated. PPP can lead to harmful behaviors, such as self-harm or harm to the baby. It can also lead to significant distress and impairment in daily functioning. Immediate treatment can help manage symptoms, reduce the risk of harm, and improve the overall prognosis for both the mother and the child. 

It is crucial that individuals experiencing PPP receive prompt care. Immediate admission to inpatient treatment in a hospital setting is often necessary. Voluntary admission to inpatient care is preferred. It allows individuals struggling with PPP to participate in treatment decisions, leading to better outcomes and a more collaborative approach to care.

In cases where individuals are unable to make informed decisions about their care, however, voluntary admission may not be possible. In these situations, involuntary admission to the hospital may be required to ensure the parent and child’s safety and well-being. Involuntary mental health treatment is only appropriate as a last resort in situations where an individual is currently and seriously at risk for harming themselves or others.

How Lightfully Behavioral Health can help postpartum psychosis

Inpatient treatment is required for postpartum psychosis, which refers to a stay in a psychiatric hospital or the psychiatric area of a hospital. The goal is to address and stabilize intense physical, behavioral or emotional symptoms that contribute to PPP. This will likely involve therapy and medication management. 

But after a new mother is discharged, the mental health journey is not over. Additional treatment at lower levels of care is typically advised post-inpatient PPP treatment. Ongoing, effective treatment for PPP can lead to complete recovery, often within a year. The most severe symptoms of the condition can last up to three months. The person will likely be referred to intensive treatment programs following an inpatient stay. 

Lightfully Behavioral Health is a compassionate soft-landing for individuals with PPP once they leave inpatient. We provide collaborative treatment planning to help people with postpartum psychosis continue improving their emotional and mental well-being. The severity of your symptoms and response to inpatient treatment will determine where you’re placed. The two levels of care that often follow inpatient treatment are:

  • Residential Treatment Center (RTC) — Following a stay in a psychiatric hospital, women with postpartum psychosis often require continued supervision and behavioral care. Our Residential Treatment Center requires a 30-day stay in a homey, safe environment. Your daily schedule will include nursing oversight, group sessions, and Safe & Sound Emotion Regulation sessions.
  • Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP) — If your providers think you need intensive care without overnight supervision, you may be admitted into our PHP. It provides you with supportive care through structured programming for one month while still encouraging autonomy by returning home at night. The schedule includes one-on-one sessions, a weekly family session and four daily group sessions.

The framework of our RTCs and PHPs consists of evidence-based, clearly defined, data-driven and whole-person-centered care. Our licensed clinicians will do an assessment of your condition and collaborate with your referring provider to determine which program will suit your needs. 

Change is possible. Reach out to our Admissions Concierge Team for more information. We’ll take the next steps together, toward the fullest, brightest version of you.

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