"To begin with, I was acting unusually elated, adrenaline-fuelled yet detached from the whole experience of childbirth."
On this page
- Symptoms of postpartum psychosis.
- Is it ‘baby blues’, postnatal depression or postpartum psychosis?
- Someone I know is showing symptoms of postpartum psychosis.
The symptoms of postpartum psychosis (PP) can be distressing and scary. It is most common for them to begin in the first two weeks after birth, often in the first few days after having your baby.
Symptoms can also start later, several weeks after the baby is born. This is more rare.
Not everyone has every symptom. Different mums have different experiences. Sometimes you may feel ‘back to normal’ but then symptoms appear again. They can change very quickly from hour to hour and one day to the next. You can read about our research into the early signs of PP here.
"I was very anxious and irritable one minute, singing and laughing the next, unable to sleep or relax, becoming paranoid and hallucinating."
You may not realise you are ill. Your partner, family or friends may recognise something is wrong and need to ask for help.
If you are diagnosed with postpartum psychosis, you will have one or more of these symptoms of psychosis.
Delusions are strong beliefs that others do not share. There are many different types of delusion. For example, you might believe:
- you are being followed,
- your thoughts are being read,
- you are very powerful and can’t be harmed,
- your baby is connected to God or the devil in some way,
- that someone is trying to control or harm you or your baby (this can be very scary and is sometimes called paranoia),
- you have special insight and can receive messages from things around you like colours, everyday events or stories on the TV.
Hallucinations are when you hear, see, feel or smell things that are not there, or that others cannot. This can include hearing voices that could be nice or nasty, feeling things crawling on your skin or seeing things other people don’t.
Mania is when you have a very high mood, behave in an over active and excited way that has a significant impact on your day-to-day life.
Your thoughts might feel as if they are going so fast they are out of control. You may also feel that your mind is moving very quickly from one idea to the next, making links and connections that other people don’t see. This is called severe confusion or disorganised thinking.
Other signs and symptoms
- excited, elated or ‘high’,
- depressed, anxious or confused,
- very irritable, agitated, restless,
- paranoid or suspicious of what people are doing and why,
- as if everyday events or stories on the TV or radio have special personal meaning,
- very energetic and like a ‘super-mum’,
- as if you don’t need to sleep.
You may also:
- be very talkative, sociable or on the phone an excessive amount,
- talk very fast and stumble over your words,
- find it difficult to keep your attention on one thing, changing the topic of conversation quickly,
- be very withdrawn,
- behave in a way that is out of character and out of control,
- have trouble sleeping or not want to sleep,
- lose your inhibitions,
- experience rapid changes in mood.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you will probably need help looking after yourself and your baby.
If you are planning a pregnancy and you are at a high risk of postpartum psychosis, you may find it helpful to have a look at our research on the first signs of PP. This research was conducted with women who experienced an episode of PP. Looking out for them may help you get treatment earlier if you need it.
It’s common to experience many different emotions after having a baby. More than half of new mothers will experience the ‘baby blues’. They usually start 3 to 4 days after birth. You may have mood swings, feel irritable, low or anxious and cry easily. These feelings usually stop by the time the baby is 10 days old. You don’t need treatment for the baby blues.
Symptoms of postnatal depression or anxiety are similar to symptoms of depression or anxiety at other times. For instance, you may experience low mood and difficulty sleeping. You may need treatment for postnatal depression but it will be different to the treatment for postpartum psychosis.
If you are experiencing delusions, hallucinations, mania or severe confusion as well as other symptoms, it may be postpartum psychosis.
If someone you know seems to be behaving strangely after having a baby, it’s important to ask for help. Symptoms can get worse very quickly. Getting the correct treatment as soon as possible can reduce illness severity and recovery time.
For some women, symptoms develop very quickly but for others it is more gradual.
Symptoms can vary throughout the day, and women may have times when they seem ‘back to normal’. It may help to write down things you have noticed to show health professionals when they do an assessment.
If you feel at all worried about any of the symptoms on this page don’t delay in talking to your GP, out-of-hours service, midwife, health visitor or mental health crisis team (if you have one). You might also find it helpful to visit our online community and our information on supporting someone with postpartum psychosis.