Postpartum depression is fairly common. Most of us know someone who had postpartum depression. However, the cousin of postpartum depression, postpartum psychosis, is far more dangerous for women and can pose serious concerns for both the mother and child.

Postpartum psychosis affects roughly 1 to 2 out of 1,000 women, though the actual amount is probably higher because not every women reports that they are being affected. The symptoms of postpartum psychosis can include severe depression, hallucinations, delusions, bewilderment, confusion, and perplexity. All of these can cause a mother to potentially harm herself or her child.

A new review published on July 12th in The Obstetrician & Gynaecologist says that there is also a connection between postpartum psychosis and bipolar disorder. Women with bipolar disorder are much more likely to experience postpartum psychosis after giving birth. It’s estimated that 1 in 4 women with bipolar disorder will experience postpartum psychosis and women with a family history are even more at risk. However, women with no family history of postpartum psychosis or bipolar disorder can also develop psychosis after giving birth.

The review emphasizes that women who are aware of their chances of suffering postpartum psychosis should seek help before even trying to get pregnant. Women need close contact with a team of multidisciplinary health professional for at least three month after delivery.  Even if a woman seems well, a written plan covering her pregnancy is recommended from her doctor and the plan should be discussed with the woman and her entire family.

Dr. Ian Jones, Reader in Perinatal Psychiatry, Cardiff University and co-author of the review said that "women at high risk of postpartum psychosis need very careful care before conception, throughout pregnancy and during the postpartum period, including pre-conception counseling and close monitoring and psychiatric assessment after childbirth. Postpartum psychosis is a true psychiatric emergency and it is vital that is recognized early and treated immediately. Admission to hospital is usually necessary and women should ideally be offered a specialist mother and baby unit where the best treatment options can be established.”

If you know you’re at risk of postpartum depression, check with your doctor before attempting to become pregnant. If you already are pregnant, make sure you discuss postnatal care and options for you and your child if you develop postpartum psychosis. Discuss all the options with your spouse or significant other as well.


  • Arianna Di Florio, Sue Smith, Ian Jones. Postpartum psychosis. The Obstetrician & Gynaecologist, 2013; 15 (3): 145 DOI: 10.1111/tog.12041
  • Wiley (2013, July 12). Women at risk of developing postpartum psychosis need close monitoring, says new review. ScienceDaily.