Psychosis is when you may see and hear things which other people around you are not able to see and hear. You can read more about the symptoms on the NHS website.
It can be incredibly frightening and usually you will need an anti-psychotic medication to help you get over this particular illness.
There are two main myths about psychosis in the perinatal period.
Myth 1: You can’t or shouldn’t have children if you’ve had a psychotic illness
This is untrue. With the right support and advice your mental health should not prevent you planning to start a family.
Myth 2: You can’t take any antipsychotic medication whilst pregnant as this will damage your baby
This is untrue but is something often heard, so women may stop all their medications if they are on them as soon as they find out they are pregnant. Sometimes this leads to an otherwise well women becoming psychotic and is not good for mum or the baby.
If you are taking medication, don’t stop taking it without seeking advice from your midwife, GP, health visitor or mental health team first.
Some of you may have had psychosis at different points in your life. It could have happened years ago and only once when you were much younger. Your life could be in a very different place now and the timing right for you to have a baby.
If you have had psychosis in the past, It is important that you seek advice from your GP, midwife or health visitor to think about life following the birth of your baby.
Having a baby can be a wonderful thing but sometimes mums need just a little bit of help to make sure they don’t become unwell following the baby’s arrival.
We know that someone who has experienced psychosis in the past has a higher risk of experiencing further psychosis following the birth of their baby. This has nothing to do with what caused any previous psychosis, but having a baby is physically and emotionally demanding, even if you have never had a psychotic episode previously. If you have had psychosis in the past then you are ‘vulnerable’ to having another post birth no matter how many years ago the original psychosis was.
The aim of this section is to educate you, not frighten you so if you have any concerns please do speak to one of your maternity team, midwife, health visitor or GP who will get the best advice for you.
There are also a tiny proportion of people who may develop symptoms of psychosis following the birth of their baby, who have never experienced psychosis before. This is called a postpartum psychosis. It is very treatable, as those who have experienced a previous episode of psychosis will know. So if you notice any symptoms like those mentioned at the beginning of this section – speak urgently to your family, GP, health visitor or midwife.
If left untreated, this can become a psychiatric emergency very quickly so it’s important that you, or another family member, access help immediately.
Remember – this section is to inform you, not frighten you, and give you the chance to get immediate help.
With the right support your symptoms can be treated promptly so that your bonding and time with your baby doesn’t get spoilt by an untimely illness.
The important thing is to remember to keep taking your medications. They keep you well and that’s what will be best for you and your baby.