Postpartum Psychosis Symptoms and Support Groups



Postpartum psychosis is “a psychiatric emergency that requires immediate medical attention,”according to an article titled “Interventions for the prevention and treatment of postpartum psychosis: a systematic review” published in December 2010 in Archives of Women’s Mental Health. The authors write that the condition dates back for centuries but little is known about what interventions are most effective. The National Institutes of Health said this disorder affects .1 percent to .2 percent of women during the first postpartum month, and usually those with family histories of bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. The repercussions of this postpartum psychosis can be serious for the mother, infant and the whole family.

Symptoms of postpartum psychosis are as follows, in what Postpartumprogress.com, a blog and non-profit support community devoted to maternal mental illness calls, “plain mama English”:

  • You have more energy than you’ve ever had in your life. This is like nothing you’ve ever experienced, and you just had a baby! You feel great. You may even feel like you don’t need sleep because there are things that must get done. Conversely, you are exhausted, have no energy, and wish you could sleep but your mind just refuses to shut down.
  • You feel like suddenly you understand EVERYTHING, like your brain is functioning on a new and different level. You are able to make connections you’ve never noticed before between people, places, and things. Everything in your whole life makes sense to you now.
  • You keep hearing and/or seeing things that no one else does or that you know are not there. You may have what seems like voices in your head that won’t stop no matter what you do. The voices comment about your actions or tell you appalling things, even that you may need to hurt someone or do something you would never do otherwise. Perhaps you feel the radio, television, nature, or God is speaking directly to you and you alone or giving you secret messages.
  • You believe that you can’t trust people or have become suspicious of your family and friends—people you always trusted prior to this. You may even feel like your family, friends, healthcare providers, or the government are out to get you. You may feel they are trying to get rid of you or stop you from doing what needs to be done. You also may feel that people (family, friends, strangers or outside forces) are going to purposely or accidentally harm you or your child.
  • You believe you are suddenly unique and special in some way, have some greater purpose, mission, powers, or have been possessed. However, you don’t want to talk about it to anyone because you know, for whatever reason, they won’t understand. Or you feel these same things are true of your baby.
  • You cannot remember how to do things you knew how to do in the past—like how to make a batch of cookies, read a map, program your phone, or find the doctor’s office. You may also have trouble focusing, like reading or doing math or following a plot on TV.
  • You feel like you are losing track of time. Or time seems either very sped up or extremely slowed down.
  • You may be having strange sensations, for example feeling like things are crawling on you.
  • You are getting into conflict with those around you. Although there may be real issues between you and others, the fact is that you are getting into way more conflicts with others than you ever used to.
  • People who care about you think there is something wrong with you or say that you are angry, sad, acting strange and/or weird. In any case, they note that you are different from how you used to be.
  • You may feel as if you are being controlled by some outside force. This force may be telling you to harm someone. Or you may have strange violent urges that have nothing to do with choice. These urges can best be understood if you think of how it feels when you experience the urge to urinate. One has little control over whether one wants to urinate or not, it is just a powerful urge one is compelled to tend to. These strange violent thoughts may present themselves as possible solutions to a myriad of problems.
  • You don’t like what is happening to you and are frightened to death. You know that something is terribly wrong and you don’t understand it. You think you’ve gone “crazy.”
  • You are afraid you will never get better. You may even believe that the only way to get out of this or to protect the ones you love is to commit suicide or abandon your family.

If you’ve just given birth and any of these bullet points resonates with you, talk to your partner and get medical attention immediately.

If you are the partner of a woman who has some of these symptoms, former Pittsburgher Dominic Tamborriello, a therapist in Ann Arbor, said, “Safety is a first priority. There is not much a partner can offer except to try and make sure the woman doesn’t harm herself or the child and to get her immediate medical help. Try to respond with calmness and with steadiness as a psychosis is internal chaos so reasoning does not work when someone is in this state.”

Full recovery is possible with rapid and accurate diagnosis and treatment.

Local Support Groups

Support groups are crucial for recovery from postpartum psychosis. Postpartum Support International (www.postpartum.net) says Jodie Hnatkovich is the Pittsburgh area state coordinator. She can be reached at jodie.hnatkovich@gmail.com or you can attend any of the following support groups:

Out of the Blue: Perinatal Depression and Anxiety
Pittsburgh, PA
meets weekly; location in transition
please contact Amy Lewis, LCSW before first attendance for current time and location
amy@socialemotionalchange.com
412-532-6622

Baby Steps Support Group Pittsburgh – South Hills area
St. Clair Hospital
1000 Bower Hill Rd
Pittsburgh, PA 15243
Fourth Floor Medical Library
Regular Meetings are held the 2nd and 4th Tuesday of every month
7:00pm – 8:30pm
Contact KATHE NIZNIK, MSN, RN for more information
Telephone: 412-942-4850

Storkbites
Moon Township, PA
Time: 11:00 AM – 1:00 PM
Sharon Community Presbyterian Church
522 Carnot Road
Moon Township, PA 15108
For more information please click here for our Meet-up site