APP launches postpartum psychosis toolkit for antenatal education providers

To mark Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week (1 – 7 May 2023), Action on Postpartum Psychosis (APP), the national charity for women and families affected by postpartum psychosis, has launched a free online toolkit to support antenatal educators.

The toolkit has been designed to support educators in delivering basic, potentially life-saving information following YouGov research, commissioned by APP, that discovered only 6% of expectant parents had heard about postpartum psychosis during their antenatal class. Meanwhile, in another survey conducted by APP, 88% of antenatal educators said they believed that PP should be discussed in classes.

Respondents outlined the barriers they faced in terms of delivering information, and APP’s toolkit is a direct response to this, ensuring that educators feel equipped, knowledgeable and empowered to share this invaluable content.

Postpartum psychosis (PP) is a debilitating postnatal mental illness that can occur out of the blue after having a baby. New mums with postpartum psychosis may develop high or low mood, or fluctuate between them, alongside delusions, hallucinations or severe confusion. Many of these mothers have had no previous mental health diagnosis prior to onset – although women with bipolar disorder are at higher risk. It affects around 1,400 women and their families every year in the UK and is a medical emergency. However, it is eminently treatable, and women go on to make a full recovery with the right support.

Naomi Gilbert, Campaigns Coordinator and Peer Supporter, APP, said: Our antenatal awareness campaign is a response to the voices of lived experience – the pleas women, partners and their families have made. ‘If only I had known something…I would have been able to call for help sooner’ or ‘I wouldn’t have been so afraid of what was happening.'

“Just having some basic knowledge, including the fact that the illness is highly treatable, can help families to recognise the signs of PP, seek help sooner and feel less afraid knowing that there is hope of full recovery.”

Dr Jess Heron, CEO, Action on Postpartum Psychosis, added: “We know that antenatal educators have a lot to cover in an already packed schedule of classes, which is why we wanted to find out how to get this life-saving information out there in an easy to use and downloadable format. The government are aiming to halve maternal deaths by 2030, and in order to do this we need to address maternal mental health. Suicide is still the leading cause of maternal death – and we are not yet making progress.

Of the women and families we spoke to in our network, almost all said they would have greatly benefitted from having just some basic awareness of PP. They also suggested that a quick 3–5-minute conversation could be all it takes to make the difference.

“For expectant parents, just having a bit of knowledge that these unusual symptoms can occur, and knowing where to get help is incredibly important. Antenatal educators who would like to learn more about postpartum psychosis can access our specialist webinars and our training for healthcare professionals which is popular across a range of disciplines – from midwives and perinatal mental health teams to first responders more broadly.”

To access Talking About Postpartum Psychosis – A Toolkit for Antenatal Educators – click here