Postpartum psychosis and other postpartum mental disorders

Half of all mothers experience melancholy during the first few weeks after childbirth. This phenomenon is often considered a normal reaction because of its frequency but it can also be seen as a mental disorder. The condition resolves spontaneously and does not need treatment other than a supportive attitude from the family and physician. Postpartum depression appears most often in the first three months after the delivery but the incidence of depression remains elevated for up to one year after childbirth. Typical symptoms are sleep problems, anhedonia, inability to concentrate, tiredness, feelings of inadequacy, excessive concern and fear about the baby.

The symptoms may be as severe as in psychosis. Possible forms of treatment include pharmacotherapy, psychotherapy, social support and help in child care. Sometimes hospitalization is indicated. Postpartum psychosis is the rarest but the most severe of the mental disorders after childbirth. The first symptoms include restlessness, agitation, sleeplessness, and changes in mood, which develop into confusion and most often manic psychosis. Postpartum psychosis is a psychiatric emergency and requires hospitalization. Suicidal risk is considerable but the newborn may also be at risk. Treatment consists of antipsychotics, psychotherapy and social support for the mother and the family.


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