What is postpartum psychosis and how can you spot the signs?

Postpartum psychosis affects one in every 1,000 new mothers in the UK. Credit: Katie Collins / PA Archive/PA Images

EastEnders is currently highlighting the issue of postpartum psychosis - but what is the condition and its symptoms?

What is postpartum psychosis?

Unlike postnatal depression or the 'Baby Blues', which most people have heard of, not much is said or reported about postpartum psychosis.

The charity and awareness group, Action on Postpartum Psychosis, describes it as "a severe, but treatable, form of mental illness that occurs after having a baby."

It affects one in every 1,000 new mothers in the UK - which is 1-2 people every day.

The illness is characterised by mania, delusion and confusion and in some cases can lead to suicide.

Postpartum psychosis often comes without warning and many women who are affected have never experienced a mental illness before.

What are some of the symptoms?

Women suffering from postpartum psychosis may experience some of the following symptoms:

  • Excited, elated, or 'high'

  • Depressed, anxious, or confused

  • Excessively irritable or changeable in mood

  • Strange beliefs that could not be true (delusions)

  • Hearing, seeing, feeling or smelling things that are not there (hallucinations)

  • High mood with loss of touch with reality (mania)

  • Severe confusion

  • Being more talkative, sociable, on the phone an excessive amount

  • Having a very busy mind or racing thoughts

  • Feeling very energetic and like ‘super-mum’ or agitated and restless

  • Having trouble sleeping, or not feeling the need to sleep

  • Behaving in a way that is out of character or out of control

  • Feeling paranoid or suspicious of people’s motives

  • Feeling that things are connected in special ways or that stories on the TV or radio have special personal meaning

Postpartum psychosis affects one in every 1,000 new mothers in the UK. Credit: Katie Collins / PA Archive/PA Images

According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, symptoms most commonly start within two weeks of birth though some cases occur later.

Where can you get help?

Action on Postpartum Psychosis advises women who may be suffering from the illness to get help immediately by contacting their GP, the NHS helpline number 111 or a local A&E department.

The government has recently announced plans to spend £290 million to provide specialist care to mums before and after having their babies.

It is hoped that this money will lead to better care, more Mother and Baby treatment units and greater understanding about conditions such as postpartum psychosis.

For more information on postpartum psychosis you can contact Action on Postpartum Psychosis - www.app-network.org or the Maternal Mental Health Alliance campaign - www.everyonesbusiness.org.uk.