25 Causes For Postpartum Psychosis, Symptoms And Treatment

Postpartum Psychosis Causes

What is postpartum psychosis

Postpartum psychosis termed as a mental health problem after giving birth can affect a woman’s thinking, behavior, and life.Its a condition that starts after a baby is born. This condition is exacerbated by certain complications, such as premature birth.

It’s also triggered by a mother’s mood and stress level.It is often named postpartum psychosis because it affects the first weeks after childbirth. It is a general term for changed thinking and perception in the mother.

Postpartum psychosis can affect a mother or a newborn baby, even if it does seem unreal. In a large study of 100,000 women in the United States, 17% of all mothers experienced at least one postpartum psychosis.

What causes postpartum psychosis

There are a lot of various factors coming together to cause postpartum psychosis. Here are the few to consider.

Physical Causes

Genetic predisposition

Women with a genetic predisposition to mental illness, especially those who have suffered from depression, are at greater risk. It is assumed that 40-50% of depression is also genetically caused. The genetic predisposition can be shown by a previous postnatal depression or other mental illness in the woman or a blood-related person.

Disturbed sleep patterns

Disturbed sleep patterns leads not only to massive exhaustion, but also to biochemical changes in the body. Due to this, the metabolic processes and the activity of the glands are impaired. Massively disturbed sleep can result in confusion, tantrums, anxiety attacks and hallucinations.

Physical changes through childbirth

The female body gradually regresses after birth. Often the weight remains above that which the woman had before pregnancy. Stretch marks and varicose veins can also remain as visible signs of motherhood. Some women find this difficult. There may also be various complaints such as constipation and pain at the perineal or cesarean section or in the breasts.

Hormonal changes

The relationship between the various hormones, physical and psychological changes and external influences is very complex and has not fully researched. The huge hormone changes during pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding seem to favor mental disorders

Deficiency symptoms

Physical deficiency symptoms can also trigger depression. For example, severe blood loss at birth or a lack of vitamins due to a one-sided diet.

Blood Sugar Fluctuations

In the first weeks after birth, if no daily routine is set, there is a risk that the mother will eat incorrectly. During puerperal, the blood sugar level drops about three hours after the last meal (otherwise around 4-5 hours). 

If you do not eat anything containing carbohydrates, adrenaline is released. This can exacerbate various symptoms of postnatal depression: excitement, irritability, panic, withdrawal and exhaustion.

Psycological causes

The birth of a child is a turning point in life. A lot of things change very suddenly and the parents, especially the mother, have to make enormous adjustments. At such turning points, we are particularly vulnerable to crises.

Identity crisis

The birth of a child, especially the first one brings a number of changes in roles and relationships. A daughter becomes a mother, a working woman maybe a housewife, and childless friends withdraw.

Your own identity and relationships with the environment must be redefined. If a woman finds the new constellation unsatisfactory, there can be an identity crisis.

The new beginning

The birth of a child is associated with a number of farewells and losses. It might be the farewell to your own childhood, to pregnancy and the associated attention. Or it might be to fantasies about the child, to an idealized motherhood, possibly to your job, to freedom, to have your own time. 

Feelings of grief are therefore normal.If grief is suppressed as “abnormal” and pushed aside, it can report back later as depression. On the other hand, emotions from the old life is controlled. As a result, the new situation can also be experienced as positive and strength can be drawn from it.

Redefine relationships

Not only the previous relationships within your own family change with the arrival of a child, but all relationships in general. For example, the relationship with your own mother changes, your own early childhood emotions and needs come up. 

Childless friends who inevitably have a different lifestyle may react to the new situation with a lack of understanding and turn away.

Stressful emotional experiences

Different mental burdens from the past can be washed up by the borderline experience of becoming a mother, old wounds can be torn open.These experiences can be the death of a loved one, previous mental illnesses, sexual abuse or broken family relationships.

Few more like moving house, job loss, abortion, miscarriage, uncertainty due to prenatal examinations can also add up to the situation.In particular, negative experiences increase during pregnancy or shortly after the birth of the Child’s risk of postnatal depression.


Some women try so hard to match an idealized image of a mother that they forget about it. They sleep too little, completely neglect their own needs and do not allow themselves to relax. Whoever gives and never recharges energy will inevitably collapse at some point.

Feelings of guilt

There is a situation when a woman feels to have idealized image of the mother, despite all her strength. During that, she will have the feeling of inadequacy and feel guilty.

Need for control

Women who tend to want to have everything under control have an increased susceptibility to postnatal depression.

Feel Of Perfection

A pronounced perfectionism, combined with high expectations, can develop into a trap of feelings of failure.

Extreme Anxiety

The tendency to extreme anxiety can transform childcare into a permanent state of stress and thus promote the development of postnatal depression

Birth Problems

Difficulties around pregnancy can lead to depression, such as a long-awaited or unwanted pregnancy. Also, depression during pregnancy or physical complications in the pregnant woman or in the unborn child.

Traumatic birth

Emergency Cesarean sections can also trigger postnatal depression. The decisive factor is not the objective severity of a birth, but the subjective feeling of the woman during the birth. The feeling of loss of control and being delivered is particularly harmful.

This feeling can also arise with a very fast birth, from which the mother feels emotionally surprised. The fact that their environment praises such an “easy” birth as a stroke of luck makes matters worse.

Puerperal problems

Various physical problems in the puerperal, health problems in the child (premature birth, illness, disability) or delayed development adds to these issues. Even breastfeeding problems (breast inflammation, difficulties with attachment, too little milk) increase the risk of postnatal depression.

Weaning medication

When weaning, especially when it happens abruptly, there is a drop in the mood-enhancing endorphins in the body. This can cause depression. If weaning is against the will of the mother, feelings of failure can be added.If breastfeeding was experienced as happy, weaning is also an experience of loss. In addition, certain weaning medications are suspected of causing depression.

Environment and surroundings

Lack of support

A new mother needs support on the emotional and on the practical level. If this is insufficient from the partner and / or from the rest of the environment, the risk of developing postnatal depression increases. If the lack of support comes with an additional burden, such as a partner’s illness, the risk is particularly high.


With a small child, the mother is suddenly very attached to home and can hardly meet friends spontaneously. If employment was also given up and the place of residence changed, a woman is suddenly cut off from her entire social network. This can trigger feelings of loneliness and being locked up.

Couple problems

Birth changes the relationship with the couple. The roles are redistributed, the parents have less time for each other due to child.The main burden of professional change through a child is still mostly borne by the woman, who has to put back her career.

Stressful circumstances

Women in stressful situations of all kinds are also at risk of becoming depressed. Few examples are such as single mothers (and fathers), physically disabled people, people infected with HIV, adoptive mothers, stepmothers. Socially disadvantaged women are also at higher risk of developing postnatal depression (parents are at higher risk of poverty in our society).Other stressful circumstances can be financial or professional problems or a violent jealousy reaction from already existing children.

Social Issues

Significance of birth

The birth of a child is a turning point in life. A lot of things change very suddenly and the parents, especially the mother, have to make enormous adjustments. At such turning points, we are particularly vulnerable to crises. Too little attention is paid to this fact in our society. 

Mothers are often expected to return to everyday life a few days after birth, for example, to do the household perfectly as before. Other cultures take this into account by taking care of the new mother and shielding her from everyday life.

Heavy labor

In our society, the mother is often responsible for childcare alone or, at most, in alternation with the father. If you haven’t experienced it yourself, you can hardly imagine what it means to look after a baby or toddler around the clock. 

That little of changing diapers and feeding can’t be so exhausting, you think. In fact, looking after small children is an emotional hard job, even for so-called “simple” children. You have to constantly empathize with the changing feelings of the children and satisfy their needs. 

This requires a lot of emotional energy and cuts up your own thoughts. If a mother fails to create protected spaces for herself to refuel, this inevitably leads to a crisis.

Contradiction To Wishes

Many women and men today in Western societies want an equal division of work, care and housework. However, the statistics contradict this wish. Women continue to do most of the housework and men do most of the work.

The more children a couple has, the more pronounced it is. The arrival of a child often leads to a painful farewell to the original ideal of roles.

Women-specific behavior patterns

Women suffer from depression twice as often as men because they tend to solve problems at the relationship level and are therefore more worried. In addition, women in our society are said to have a smaller range of behaviors than men. As a rule, women are not allowed feelings such as anger and aggression, which are quite normal in new mothers.

Many women in our society have problems with self-esteem or a high level of perfection. When the two come together, it quickly leads to feelings of guilt and failure.

Environment hostile to children

Children have little freedom in our society and are kept away from the adult world if possible. If a mother wants to enter a tram, a bus or a department store with a small child we see some situations. She is sometimes given angry looks when the child is crying, the diapers are full, or the stroller is taking up too much space. Even the childless circle of friends has little experience in dealing with children and therefore little understanding. Many mothers fail to bounce off negative looks or statements. They are an additional stress factor for them.

Postpartum Psychosis and schizophrenia

Not all mothers who experience postpartum psychosis develop severe social isolation. Some go on to have normal and fulfilling lives after being in care for a few weeks or months. They become increasingly desperate to maintain contact with their children.However, some mothers also develop schizophrenia.

Both these conditions are characterized by abnormalities in a mother’s immune system, which triggers the creation of antibodies that attack healthy cells.It is also possible that the mother’s mental ability with postpartum psychosis is compromised.

It might be caused due to labor issues during delivery of a child. For example, a mother with schizophrenia who vomits may be stressed about her sick child and seek out symptoms.

Symptoms of postnatal psychosis

Postnatal psychosis is much less common than postnatal depression. One to three out of 1,000 mothers are affected. Most often, it occurs suddenly within the first three days after birth. However, in very rare cases it can develop from an untreated depression.Other symptoms include increased feelings of isolation or loneliness, irritability, loss of interest in work or education, problems concentrating.Since there is a high tendency of a suicide, the person concerned must under no circumstances be left alone. She must be immediately given medical treatment.Typical symptoms are:

  • Strong personality change: The affected mother changes her personality greatly, feels alienated (denationalization) or feels the environment as strongly changed (realization). As a rule, those affected are very restless and anxious.
  • Loss of reality: The reference to reality is lost. The person concerned thinks and acts irrationally, is confused and disoriented, has strong and unreal feelings. Completely clear moments can suddenly change to confusion and vice versa.
  • Drive increase: Some mothers are extremely restless and have a high drive increase. Sometimes they experience exaggerated feelings of happiness, are cheerful, exuberant and full of energy. They suffer from megalomania and start large projects. Your actions are usually unproductive.
  • Lack of drive: Some people are completely apathetic, listless and listless. They seem paralyzed, mask-like and petrified. Under this paralysis are extreme feelings of guilt and inadequacy.
  • Delusions: Those affected by psychosis live in a fantasy world. During this, they can hear, see, smell or taste people, things or animals that do not exist. The feeling for one’s own identity and that of the child are lost. Sometimes the child is mistaken for a demon or for Christ. The mother feels forced to perform ritual acts, has compulsive ideas and fantasies about killing.

Postpartum Depression: examinations and diagnosis

There is currently no generally accepted procedure for diagnosing postpartum depression. In many cases the diagnosis is subjective. It is suspected by relatives or the person concerned; in discussions with the family doctor or gynecologist, the result is usually a clearer picture.

The so-called Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) has proven to be the most helpful diagnostic tool to date. This is a questionnaire that should be filled out with your doctor if you suspect postpartum depression. The severity of the puerperal depression can be determined in this way.

Treatment For Postpartum Depression

The individual treatment for postpartum depression depends on its severity. With a light shape, practical support for baby care and household chores is often enough to alleviate the symptoms. This support can come from family members, friends and / or the midwife. Sometimes a domestic help or a nanny makes sense.

As a result, all family members are relieved and can work on family cohesion and future planning. In more severe cases of puerperal depression, psycho therapeutic treatment is necessary. Self-help is usually no longer sufficient here. Depending on their own preferences, affected women can choose between different forms of therapy such as talk therapy or body therapy.

The partner and other family members should be included in the therapy. You can learn how to deal with the disease correctly and develop more understanding for the patient. This enables them to support them better. If necessary, women with postpartum depression receive additional drug therapy (antidepressants).

Preventive measures for risk groups

Women who already have a tendency towards anxiety or depression during pregnancy are usually offered increased support during birth preparation.

In the first period after birth, the nursing staff of the clinic or the partner takes care of the baby. This helps the mother so that she can rest and has time to adapt to the new life situation.

Course of the disease and prognosis

During puerperal depression, relatives and relatives often lose hope that the disease will ever heal. However, the prognosis of postpartum depression is good. As a rule, the women concerned recover completely.

A good family environment and the help of the partner and the family make it extremely easy for all mothers. Be it the first time after birth, this helps to keep the symptoms of puerperal depression under control.

About the Author Sophia

Sophia have studied at Medical University in Michigan and have good experience in the field of human behavior and psychiatry. She is also working as a researcher in well know medical industry.

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