"My husband recalls waking up in the middle of the night to find all the lights on. He got up and found me wandering around frantically, talking to myself."

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What is postpartum psychosis (PP)?

What is postpartum psychosis - Hannah's experiencePostpartum psychosis (PP) is a severe but treatable form of mental illness that begins suddenly in the days and weeks after having a baby. It can be frightening and shocking for the mum experiencing it, her partner and her family.

Some people who get PP have no previous history of mental illness. If you have had a history of bipolar disorder you have a higher risk of getting PP.

For some people the illness develops very quickly and it is obvious that something is wrong. For others, things can happen more gradually. Read more about symptoms.

PP can get worse very quickly and should always be considered as a medical emergency.

We have more information on getting urgent help and treatment here. You will probably need to be given medication and admitted to hospital.

Almost all mums recover fully after an episode of PP.

"After about a week I began to notice that my wife’s behaviour was getting a bit…unusual. She was still happy and energised but now it was as if she was too energised. She started coming up with bizarre schemes to make our fortune and was starting to arrange all our possessions by colour. She spoke about how colours appeared particularly vibrant, sounds were amplified and smells were overwhelming. Finally she began to have conversations with her dead father… obviously something was going very, very wrong."

Ellie Ware, Giles Berrisford and Ian Jones answer the question 'What is PP?' below.

Other names for postpartum psychosis

Most professionals use the name ‘postpartum psychosis’ to describe an episode of mania or psychosis with onset soon after giving birth. Some people will use other names. This can be confusing.

Other names people might use are:

  • puerperal psychosis,
  • mania or bipolar disorder triggered by childbirth (this doesn’t necessarily mean you will develop ongoing bipolar disorder),
  • schizoaffective disorder with onset following childbirth (again, this doesn’t mean you will develop ongoing schizoaffective disorder), or
  • postnatal depression with psychotic features.

PP is different to postnatal depression and has different causes. Some people experience depression during recovery from PP.

Listen to Ellie Ware talk about PP here.