"My family has a grand tradition. After a woman gives birth, she goes mad. I thought that I would be the one to escape."
On this page
- Recent publications.
- Textbooks and factual resources.
- Fictional & biographical accounts of PP.
Textbooks & factual resources
What is Worth Knowing about 'Puerperal Psychosis' by Ian Brockington. Published 2014 by Eyry Press. Considers triggers of PP in both the early postpartum period as well as at various times in the reproductive process. The book and a 45-minute audio-visual account on the psychoses of childbearing are both available on request from the author: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Psychoses of Menstruation and Childbearing by Ian Brockington. Published 2017 by Cambridge University Press. This study will be of particular interest to psychiatrists, obstetricians and gynaecologists, midwives, general practitioners, neuroscientists and related professions.
A thorough Carer's Survival Guide contains excellent tips and advice for carers. It is written by Craig Allatt whose partner experienced PP. Please note, it is aimed at an Australian audience and some of the healthcare procedures may differ in the UK.
Reviewed by Jackie Benjamin:
Understanding postpartum psychosis: A Temporary Madness by Teresa Twomey
Support International provides information about the features and treatment of PP. Readers should note that it is aimed at a US audience and legal issues and healthcare procedures differ in the UK.
Perinatal Mental Health – a sourcebook for health professionals by Diana Riley
Published 1995 by Radcliffe Medical Press, Oxford. This is very readable and gives extensive references.
Motherhood & Mental Health by Ian Brockington. Published in Hardback 1996 by Oxford University Press (paperback edition available). This is extremely thorough and authoritative but quite technical and difficult for a lay person to follow. You can download reviews of the book by Carol Sue North MD and by Miriam B. Rosenthal, MD.
Mood & Anxiety Disorders During Pregnancy by Cohen & Nonacs
In five concise, well-written chapters, the authors offer invaluable guidance in treating women during pregnancy and the postpartum period.
Psychiatric Drugs Explained by David Healey. Published by Elsevier Churchill Livingstone
Now in its 5th Edition – I have the 4th Edition of this book and also had the 2nd and 3rd as, although it is aimed at a professional audience, I have found this fairly approachable but detailed enough to be useful. I struggled with medication side effects when my sons were born and wasn’t given much information so didn’t always know what was caused by my illness and what was due to medication. When I was ill a third time, this book helped me to be much informed and to make real choices about my treatment. Not everyone wants so much information, some people take the attitude that that is the doctor’s job. I feel more confident talking to my doctor and psychiatrist with the benefit of this kind of information so that I share the decision-making with them. Be warned, though, that David Healey has quite strong views against the drug industry and you need to take that into account.
Out of me by Fiona Shaw
Out of Me is a personal, engaging and extremely readable account of severe postnatal illness, the author’s process of trying to understand and recover from the illness, and of coming to terms with her psychiatric admission and treatment.
Beth: A story of postpartum psychosis by Shirley Cervene Halvorson
This short book is written by a mother who lost her daughter to PP. It tells the story of Beth and how the family coped following her tragic suicide in 1986.
Fictional and biographical accounts of PP
Reviewed by Jackie Benjamin:
A Mother's Climb Out of Darkness by Jennifer Hentz Moyer
In this honest, real and heart-wrenching story of a mother battling postpartum psychosis, there are accounts of some of the most difficult experiences a mother could face. There are also uplifting accounts of a mother’s bond to her baby, success in going back to work and building a strong family unit. Some parts may be hard for women currently experiencing PP to read due to her complete and honest accounts of psychosis and experiences. Jennifer explores the importance of caring for yourself physically and emotionally, and how a woman’s spiritual side may also play a part in recovery. including having doctors listen to her, communicate with her and involve her in care plans. It lends itself as a fascinating account for health professionals and students in mental health who want an insight into the impacts on every aspect of a woman’s life. Jennifer’s account is both heartbreaking and inspirational. Read an interview with the author here.
Reviewed by Jess Heron:
The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Gilman Perkins
Written in 1890, this is the most famous early fictional account of puerperal psychosis. The short story, originally published in the New England Magazine, was informed by her own experience of postnatal illness, and her struggles with ambition and duty. It is now a text studied by English scholars as feminist literature, but contains good descriptions of a woman ‘losing her mind’ after the birth of her baby, an ineffective 19th century medical system, and of a husband not knowing what to do.
The Shutter of Snow by Emily Holmes Coleman
The Shutter of Snow is a fictional description of the postpartum psychosis of Marthe Gail, who after giving birth to her son, is admitted to a 19th Century psychiatric hospital. The story describes the passage of Gail’s mind through the fog of her illness; the other patients and caretakers; and describes the immense support provided by her husband as she sorts through her delusions and behaviours. Written in 1931, the book is based on the experiences of the author and takes an unusual form that is very difficult to read. It is probably only for the most dedicated and persistent reader!
Surviving Post-Natal Depression: At Home, No one hears You Scream by Cara Aiken (published 2000 by Jessica Kingsley Publishers Ltd). This contains the personal accounts of 10 women who had various degrees of postnatal illness, including PP with other chapters on partners, the professional view, practical advice and The Light at the End of the Tunnel. This book is easier to digest than some as it is broken down into smaller chunks and you can pick and choose the parts that seem most relevant to you.
Hillbilly Gothic: A Memoir of Madness & Motherhood by Adrienne Martini
A personal and sometimes humorous account of postpartum psychosis, with a wonderful first line: “My family has a grand tradition. After a woman gives birth, she goes mad. I thought that I would be the one to escape.”
Eyes without Sparkle by Elaine Hanzak
Eyes without Sparkle is a powerful personal account of a journey through motherhood and mental illness. Elaine now gives talks to educate professionals about the experience, stigmas and difficulties faced by women with young children who experience an episode of mental illness.
Saving Grace by Grace Sharrock
Saving Grace is published by one of our APP members. Grace gave birth to her daughter Ellie 8 years ago and suffered a postpartum psychosis. This book describes her experiences and her process of recovery. We send Grace our best wishes as she has just given birth to twins, without a recurrence of PP.
Blackmoor by Edward Hogan
Edward Hogan's debut novel Blackmoor was shortlisted for the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award. As I was reading this compelling story set in a close-knit conservative Derbyshire mining village in the 1980s, I was surprised to find a character with an episode of puerperal psychosis in her history. I talked to Ed about the source of his inspiration.