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Mum-of-two who had postpartum psychosis ‘thought she was going to die’

A new mother who says she was terrified "somebody was going to come and harm me" after giving birth is speaking out about postnatal mental health in a bid to help others.

Emily McIntosh says her memories of early motherhood still haunt her, as just days after giving birth to her daughter she became confused and agitated.

The mum, who believed she was being watched, could not remember what year she was in, or how to get home, was experiencing postpartum psychosis.

The rare but serious mental health illness can affect any new mother, with symptoms including hallucinations and delusions.

Emily with her eldest daughter soon after giving birth. Within days she would start to experience Postnatal Psychosis.

Emily from Rochdale said: "I think the first warning sign was the trip home from hospital. I couldn't remember the way.

"I didn't know what date it was; what year it was; I couldn't follow simple conversations.

"I remember my friends visiting and it was like they were talking in another language. It was almost as if I was floating all the time. I wasn't there."

Emily became convinced people were trying to harm her and she was being watched.

With figures revealing a rising number of new mums take their own lives within a year of having a baby, Emily is now speaking out to help others and raise awareness of the little-talked about condition.


Figures from the Maternal Health Alliance reveal:

  • Around 1 in 5 women will experience mental health problems during or after pregnancy.

  • 70% will hide or underplay the severity of their illness.

  • Suicide is the leading cause of direct maternal death within a year of having a baby.


"I looked out of the window and thought somebody was looking over the fence at me," Emily said.

"There wasn't anybody there obviously and then I had a massive panic attack.

"The paramedics came and I was completely shut down. I couldn't move, speak or open my eyes."

With no history of mental health issues she was taken to A&E.

Emily added: "I didn't believe anything the doctors and nurses were saying. They were trying to give me medication and I wouldn't have it.

"I was that petrified I was going to die and somebody was going to come and harm me."

Emily was diagnosed with severe postnatal depression and anxiety and received treatment in the community.

One in five women will experience mental health issues during or after pregnancy

The Andersen Ward is in Laureate House, which is in the grounds of Wythenshawe Hospital in Manchester.

The ward is one of only two mother and baby units in the North West and is run by Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust.

It provides specialist inpatient care for women experiencing mental health problems during or after pregnancy.

The unit has facilities for 10 mothers and babies and the average stay is six to eight weeks.

Christie Sherratt had severe postnatal depression and spent eight weeks on the ward 10 years ago with her newborn.

The mum-of-two is now a peer support worker using her experience to help other mums struggling with their mental health.

Christie said: "I was very suicidal and I was of the mindset that I didn't want my daughter and I felt I wouldn't be able to look after her and do a good enough job and it was case of either I leave or she leaves. It was a very difficult time."

Christie's treatment involved medication and therapy and she says all the staff played a major part in her recovery.

Peer support worker Christie helps mums struggling with their mental health. Credit: ITV News

Consultant Perinatal Psychiatrist at Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust, Dr Aaron McMeekin said: "Most of the women who are admitted to this ward will have episodes of Psychosis or very severe postnatal depression but they can also have severe postnatal anxiety.

"Some of the women will also have been admitted because they have anxiety coming up to delivery or they may have experienced trauma in previous pregnancies and need that extra intensive support to allow them to deliver in a very supported way and allow them to be with their child after delivery."

Worried about mental health?

PAPYRUS

For practical, confidential suicide prevention help and advice you can contact PAPYRUS HOPELINE247 on 0800 068 4141, text 07860 039967 or email pat@papyrus-uk.org

Suicide is the biggest killer of young people in the UK. PAPYRUS aims to reduce the number of young people who take their own lives by breaking down the stigma around suicide and equipping people with the skills to recognise and respond to suicidal behaviour.

HOPELINE247 is the charity’s confidential 24 hour helpline service providing practical advice and support to young people with thoughts of suicide and anyone concerned about a young person who may have thoughts of suicide.

HOPELINE247 is staffed by trained professionals, offering a telephone, text and email service.

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CALM

CALM, or the Campaign Against Living Miserably, runs a free and confidential helpline and webchat – open from 5pm to midnight every day, for anyone who needs to talk about life’s problems.

It also supports those bereaved by suicide, through the Support After Suicide Partnership (SASP).

  • Phone their helpline: 0800 585858 (Daily, 5pm to midnight)

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James’ Place

Suicide prevention centre in Liverpool offering life-saving support to men in suicidal crisis.

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Mind

Mind is a mental health charity which promotes the views and needs of people with mental health issues.

It provides advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem, and campaigns to improve services, raise awareness and promote understanding.

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Samaritans

Samaritans is an organisation offering confidential support for people experiencing feelings of distress or despair.

  • Phone 116 123 (a free 24 hour helpline)

  • Email: jo@samaritans.org

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YoungMinds

YoungMinds is a resource with information on child and adolescent mental health, but also offers services for parents and professionals.

It is the UK’s leading charity fighting for children and young people's mental health, and wants to make sure all young people can get the mental health support they need, when they need it

  • YoungMinds Textline - Text YM to 85258

  • Phone Parents' helpline 0808 802 5544 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am - 4pm)

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