"Postpartum psychosis is not your fault. It is not caused by anything you or your partner have thought or done. Relationship problems, stress or the baby being unwanted do not cause postpartum psychosis."

On this page

  • What causes postpartum psychosis?
  • Who is most likely to get postpartum psychosis?

What causes postpartum psychosis?

There is still a lot to learn about the causes of postpartum psychosis. Lots of different things are likely to be involved.

You are more likely to have postpartum psychosis if a close relative has had it. This means that it may be something to do with your genes.

Changes in hormone levels and disrupted sleep patterns after having your baby are also likely to be involved but we don't know exactly how.

Postpartum psychosis might be more common if you have had pre-eclampsia or thyroid problems.

There isn’t yet enough evidence to suggest that there is a link between postpartum psychosis and the experience of a traumatic birth.

We need more research to understand how biological, psychological and social factors interact.

We are very keen to find people to help us with our research into postpartum psychosis.

Who is most likely to get postpartum psychosis?

Causes of postpartum psychosis

Some people have a higher risk of getting postpartum psychosis. The risks outlined below are best estimates based on research. Every woman will have an individual risk based on many factors. Your healthcare professionals can help you understand more about your individual risk.

Risk factors

If you have had a diagnosis of bipolar disorder or schizoaffective disorder your chance of having postpartum psychosis is about 1 in 4 (a 25% likelihood).

If you have bipolar disorder, there are some other factors that could increase or decrease your risk. You are more likely to have PP:

  • after your first baby (if you don’t have PP after your first pregnancy, any further pregnancies will be lower risk),
  • if you have had several previous manic episodes (even if these were long ago),
  • if you have a family history of PP,
  • if the pregnancy is unplanned, or
  • if you experience low or high mood during pregnancy.

If you have had a diagnosis of one of these illnesses before, and your mother or sister had postpartum psychosis, your risk may be more like 1 in 2 (a 50% likelihood).

If you have had a diagnosis or episodes of one of these illnesses in the past unrelated to childbirth, and you have also had postpartum psychosis before, the risk may be as high as 7 in 10 (a 70% chance).

If your mother or sister has had postpartum psychosis but you have not had any previous mental health problems, your risk is about 3 in 100 (a 3% chance). This is higher than the general population but still relatively low risk.

If you have had postpartum psychosis before, your risk of getting it again in another pregnancy is around 1 in 2 (a 50% chance).

You may find it helpful to look at our information on planning a pregnancy and our Insider guide for women at high risk of postpartum psychosis.