Even women with the most severe form of postpartum psychosis can care for their children with the right medical intervention, according to a new study.
Postpartum psychosis is distinctly different to postnatal depression and involves psychotic symptoms such as loss of reality including confusion, delusions and hallucinations, often accompanied by either mania or depression.
The condition is extremely debilitating and nearly always requires hospitalisation to protect the mother and her baby. Fortunately it is extremely rare occurring in about 1-2 per 1000 births.
A study of a mother-baby unit, Helen Mayo House in South Australia over five years from 2012 to 2016 found if properly treated, women suffering postpartum psychosis could make a full recovery and continue to care for their babies after discharge.
Dr Rebecca Hill from the Women’s and Children’s Health Network in Adelaide said the study showed strong medical intervention and care were essential for women diagnosed with postpartum psychosis.
“The study found that women in the mother-baby unit suffering severe symptoms often required one on one nursing care and initially women were admitted as involuntary patients,” she said.
“All patients received atypical antipsychotic medication and a few also required lithium– a mood stabiliser.
“Following treatment however, almost all the women made a complete recovery and were able to go home and care for their babies. Amazingly, breastfeeding rates were highly preserved with 77 per cent of women still breastfeeding at the time of discharge.
“The babies were also healthy and avoided a major separation from their mothers at a crucial time when close proximity is important for developing attachment.”
Dr Hill said women who had suffered postpartum psychosis needed to have access to specialist advice and planning for subsequent pregnancies, as the risk of recurrence was high at around 50 per cent.
“It is important that Australian women who suffer from postpartum psychosis have access to a motherbaby unit so they can receive the help they need to look after themselves and their babies,” she said.
President of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) Professor Malcolm Hopwood said: “This study shows the importance of the need for identification and early intervention for women with postpartum psychosis and the good news for these women is that with the right care they can bond with their babies and care for them like any other new mother.”
The study will be presented at the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) Annual Congress from 30 April to 4 May at the Adelaide Convention Centre.
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The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists is a membership organisation that prepares medical specialists in the field of psychiatry, supports and enhances clinical practice, advocates for people affected by mental illness and advises governments on mental health care. For information about our work, our members or our history, visit www.ranzcp.org.