This severe form of mental illness affects approximately one or two
mothers in every 1000.
The onset is rapid and usually occurs with in the first few days after
delivery. The symptoms are those of depressive psychosis, manic illness or in
some cases schizophrenia. This illness most often affects primipara.
The affected woman shows bizarre behavior, loses touch with reality and
may suffer from hallucinations. The onset of these symptoms may be heralded by
a time of acute restlessness and inability to sleep. Frequently the mother may
deny that her baby belongs to her and in rare cases she may harm the baby.
The illness must be treated promptly by admission to a psychiatry unit
under the care of a consultant. In most cases the baby will be able to
accompany his mother into hospital and this should be encouraged if at all
possible prompt psychiatric case is vital and skilled psychiatric nursing care
is required including medical treatments. With prompt treatment the prognosis
is good but, unfortunately, it is likely that further episodes of the illness
will occur through out the woman’s life around there is a high risk of
recurrence in subsequent pregnancies.