Postnatal psychosis is a serious mental illness 

For a new dad, learning that his partner has postnatal psychosis will be tough. Affecting 1 to 2 women in every 1000 after childbirth, it can be a potentially life-threatening condition that can put both mother and baby at risk. Watching your partner being affected by the illness can be confronting and challenging.

However, it’s important to remember that postnatal psychosis is treatable and the sooner you seek help, the better. This means recognising symptoms and seeking urgent medical assistance is essential. So if you are a new dad and you suspect your partner might have developed postnatal psychosis, seek help immediately (see below for more details).

Women with postnatal psychosis will almost always need admission to hospital for specialised psychiatric assessment, care and treatment. Beyond the immediate treatment period, significant ongoing support and care is required throughout the recovery process.  

A treatable illness

Most people know little, if anything about postnatal psychosis so watching your partner experience it will come as a shock. Changes in behaviour and thinking are often sudden and dramatic. Postnatal psychosis can cause a loss of contact with reality, and behaviour that seems out of character. Fortunately postnatal psychosis is temporary and treatable. Women generally experience a full recovery with time and appropriate treatment and go on to mother their children as they expected to.

Causes of postnatal psychosis

While we know little about what causes postnatal psychosis, we do know that women who experience bipolar disorder or who have experienced postnatal psychosis after previous births are at greater risk. There is also an increased risk in women with a family history of postnatal psychosis or bipolar disorder.

Severe sleep deprivation and rapid hormonal changes following childbirth may also be contributing factors. Many women will have only a single episode of postnatal psychosis, while others might experience it with more than one baby.  For a smaller group of women, postnatal psychosis may mark the first episode of bipolar disorder.

GETTING HELP FOR POSTNATAL PSYCHOSIS

As the partner of someone going through postnatal psychosis, in many situations the decision to seek treatment will fall to you. While it can be very hard to take this step, postnatal psychosis requires urgent medical attention. 

If you are concerned about your partner you can:               

  • Take her to a GP
  • Take her to the nearest hospital emergency department
  • Call PANDA’s Helpline 1300 726 306

When seeking help make sure to tell reception or health care staff that her behaviour is unusual, that she has a very young baby and that you think she has postnatal psychosis.

If you are concerned about your partner or the baby’s immediate safety you may need to call 000 for an ambulance or the police. Again, make sure to say that her behaviour is unusual and potentially dangerous, that she has a very young baby and that you think she has postnatal psychosis.