Up to 1,200 new mums suffer from psychosis each year

Press release
02 May 2024

“Every year, hundreds of mothers suffer from postpartum psychosis which puts both their health and the health of their baby at great risk. It also robs women of precious moments with their newborn, and this can be deeply traumatic if they don’t receive compassionate and personalised care quickly,” says Dr Cressida Manning, Chair of the Faculty of Perinatal Psychiatry at the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists estimates that between 600 and 1,200 mothers experience psychosis each year in England and Wales.

To mark Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week, the College is highlighting the importance of mental health before, during and after pregnancy.

Postpartum psychosis is a psychiatric and medical emergency that causes high mood (mania), depression, confusion, hallucinations and delusions. If left untreated, it can increase the risk of suicide and in rare cases put the baby’s life at risk too.

The illness can develop rapidly and most commonly occurs during the first two weeks after a child is born. Mothers and their partners are often unaware of this illness and the risks associated with it.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists and the NHS have both published information resources to help inform people about the signs to look out for, the treatments available and where to seek help.

Women who develop postpartum psychosis often need to be cared for in hospital and it’s vital they receive support as quickly as possible. With the right care they can make a full recovery.

New and expectant mothers must be supported to seek professional care if they need it. The Government must also implement commitments made in the NHS Long Term Plan that will ensure 66,000 women with moderate to severe perinatal mental health difficulty have access to specialist community care from pre-conception to 24 months after birth. Their partners must also have access to mental health assessments and signposting for support.

Dr Manning goes on to say:

“Many pregnant women are aware that they might experience the postnatal depression after giving birth and persistently feel sad, anxious or exhausted. Far fewer know that postpartum psychosis is an illness that even exists and can cause them to develop significant mood swings, delusions and hallucinations meaning they are unable to care for themselves or their child.

“With the right support, women with postpartum psychosis can fully recover from their illness and develop a loving and meaningful bond with their child. Perinatal mental health services are specifically designed to help them recuperate and care for their baby at the same time.

“Although we have seen improvements, Government must ensure the mental health of pregnant women and mothers is not treated as an afterthought. They must be offered specialist care throughout their pregnancy and after they have given birth.

“We also need to tackle the stigma surrounding psychosis as many women worry they’ll be judged and deemed unfit to care for their baby. Mothers need to know they are not to blame for their illness and must not be left to overcome it alone.”

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