Information for Journalists
APP has a pool of volunteers willing to share their stories in the media. Email email@example.com to find out more.
If you are a journalist and would like to write about Postpartum Psychosis, please get in touch. Some facts and figures for journalists are available here.
Postpartum Psychosis Facts & Figures
- Episodes of severe mental illness such as mania or psychosis follow 1-2 in 1000 deliveries.
- An average size maternity unit would see 8-10 cases of rapid onset psychosis following childbirth in a year. Around 1400 cases occur each year in the UK.
- Postpartum Psychosis is a devastating illness for mothers and families.
- It strikes at a time when families are full of expectation. Mothers feel loss, guilt, responsibility for missing out on the early months of motherhood. Fathers become responsible for a newborn or are separated from their families. They do not know if their partners will fully recover.
- PP can occur to women from all social classes, occupations, and educational backgrounds. Often it occurs ‘out of the blue’ to women without any previous psychiatric history.
- The stakes are high if the illness is not identified sufficiently early, or is poorly managed, both in terms of maternal outcome (including risk of suicide) and child outcome (including rare and tragic cases of infanticide).
- According to The Confidential Enquiries into Maternal and Child Health (www.cmace.org.uk) suicide was the leading cause of maternal death up until the last enquiry and is still one of the leading causes. Half of these suicides occur to mothers suffering the acute onset of psychotic illness. Completed suicides are the tip of the iceberg in terms of ‘near miss’ events occurring to women who develop PP.
- PP is eminently treatable, but services must respond quickly and appropriately to these psychiatric emergencies. Episodes have a rapid onset, usually within days of delivery and may escalate to full blown psychosis quickly – within hours or days.
- Although episodes of PP are among the most severe illnesses seen in clinical practice, PP also has one of the best prognoses.
- Acute symptoms are similar to that of bipolar disorder and may include: extreme elation or euphoria, rapid mood changes, or depressed mood; the rapid onset of unusual beliefs; visual and auditory hallucinations; extreme confusion; and behaviour can be very bizarre. Episodes can be very frightening for women and their families.
- The causes of PP are unknown, but the dramatic hormonal and biological changes that occur at childbirth are thought to be involved. There is some evidence of a genetic component to the illness and of a link with bipolar disorder. One in 4 women with a history of bipolar disorder experience PP following childbirth.
- The majority of women are substantially recovered within a few months, but full recovery and coming to terms with the illness may take 12 months or longer.
- Recovery is a difficult and lengthy process. Factors that contribute to these difficulties include: limited availability of information about PP and recovery; isolation caused by lack of visible others who have experienced the illness; poor awareness in the general public and media; the stigma associated with experiencing mental illness- particularly at this time when women have high hopes of new motherhood; difficulties coming to terms with behaviour during the illness; limited availability of specialist psychological and practical support following admission to facilitate coming to terms with the episode, looking after a baby, rebuilding relationships, and mothering confidence.
- Misguided portrayals in the media can contribute to mothers’ feelings of isolation and to difficulties in discussing their experiences with other mothers. Often, when women or their partners search the internet for information about their illness, alarmist stories about mothers harming their babies are the first they encounter.
- PP is not simply a more severe form of postnatal depression. In fact, many mothers with PP do not experience any symptoms of depression at all, rather they experience extreme elation, spirituality, confusion, and quickly lose contact with reality. The majority of women therefore are unable to seek help for themselves and others must obtain help for them.
PP: What needs communicating?
Lucy Vernall runs a project called “IdeasLab” that works with university projects helping them to gain media attention for their work. In order to find out what sort of media attention would benefit APP, Lucy conducted telephone interviews with a group of women from APP asking them: what needs communicating about PP; who it needs communicating to; and how it should be communicated. Lucy’s report is available from Dr Jessica Heron. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Key conclusions from the report:
- As a matter of priority, recovering women need access to basic information about PP: “It’s an illness like any other”; “You don’t get it because you are not a good mother or because you can’t cope”; “Symptoms and behaviour may seem bizarre but they are a common part of the illness”; “ You will recover “; “Your child can be happy and healthy-you can go on to enjoy your child like a ‘normal’ mum”. Most of all, women would like to hear from and see other women who have experienced PP and are ‘normal’ and live normal lives (Video, audio, web information).
- Partners need access to information: “This change in the person you love is not forever, it is a matter of time”; “How to get help”. It is a particularly hard time for partners. Partners would benefit from information from men who have been through it (leaflets or web information).
- In the long term women often become very interested in the condition and want to read books or scholarly articles. There is a need to understand what happened. This could be achieved by talking to other women, reading accounts of people’s experiences, writing accounts of one’s own experience. These could be collated on a website or in a book.
- Health visitors, midwives, GPs need to know how to spot symptoms, explanation of illness, pathways to recovery. (Leaflets, training days, education syllabus).
- Increased awareness in general public. Having some awareness beforehand would make the experience less frightening and strange for women and families. If more people knew about PP, it would be easier to talk to other mothers and friends about experiences. (Target pregnancy books and leaflets, pregnancy / baby club websites, TV , radio).
- Many women who have had PP feel very strongly about communicating information about the condition and helping other women. They want to bring about something good from what they experienced. Suggested setting up media group of women who are happy to share their stories; network of local ‘reps’ to talk to groups such as NCT, midwives, GPs.
APP Media Guide
A media handbook developed by women with personal experience and experts is available here: APP Media Guide