Postpartum Psychosis: the ‘Silent’ Postpartum Disorder

You’ve probably heard of the ‘baby blues’. You might know that some mothers can develop postpartum depression or anxiety. But you’ve probably not heard of a little-known and rare condition that occurs in 1 to 2% of births: postpartum psychosis. 

In August 2018, singer and songwriter Adele brought attention to postpartum psychosis when she shared a photo with her friend, Laura Dockrill, who was diagnosed with the condition. Adele wrote:

“This is my best friend … She has written the most intimate, witty, heartbreaking and articulate piece about her experience of becoming a new mum and being diagnosed with postpartum psychosis. Mamas talk about how you’re feeling because in some cases it could save yours or someone else’s life.” 

The piece is a powerful personal account of Laura’s experience with this debilitating postpartum disorder.

Although rare compared to postpartum depression or anxiety, postpartum psychosis is a recognized condition. It is included in the latest edition of the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11). It’s also included in the most recent edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). Here, it is listed as a specifier – “with postpartum onset” – to the “brief psychotic disorder” diagnosis.

Symptoms of postpartum psychosis include rapid mood swings, hyperactivity, strange beliefs and delusion, hallucinations and paranoia. Although a rare temporary and treatable illness, it can be potentially dangerous and life-threatening.

Postpartum psychosis has a 5% rate of suicide and a 4% rate of infanticide.

The challenge with the condition, as with mental illness in general, is that there isn’t a single predictor of whether a mother will develop it. Risk factors include a history of bipolar disorder, previous psychotic episodes, obstetrical complications, sleep deprivation and lack of partner support. In Laura’s case, there was no history of mental illness or psychotic episodes. Treatment can include medications such as antidepressants and antipsychotics and psychotherapy such as cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT). 

Laura’s story exemplifies the silence surrounding postpartum psychosis. She said herself that she had never heard of postpartum psychosis until she experienced it firsthand.

Lack of awareness is particularly problematic as having social support can be crucial to a quick identification and treatment of the condition – and this can save lives. 

Laura shared she was healing with the help and support of her family and psychiatrist, and through medication and psychotherapy. To other mothers struggling with postpartum psychosis and other postpartum mental health conditions, Laura said: “You don’t have to brave it alone. You don’t have to act like a hero, you already are one.”

If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, please reach out for help immediately. In the United States, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text TWT to 741741. For a list of international suicide hotlines, visit www.buddy-project.org/hotlines.

Opinions and experiences published on girlsglobe.org are not medical advice. If you are struggling with your mental health, please seek help from a doctor or mental health professional.

Seeds of Hate Grow into Tragedy in Poland

Every now and then, a barbaric, senseless tragedy strikes the world. It casts a shadow on our hopes that we, as a species, are progressing. Although such tragedies often seem unexpected, after closer inspection we come to a stark realisation. Evil doesn’t come from nowhere.

In January, such tragedy struck my homeland, Poland.

A liberal politician and Mayor of Gdansk, Pawel Adamowicz, was killed. He was killed on stage, in front of thousands of spectators. He was participating in a charity event raising funds for children’s medical equipment.

The perpetrator was shouting words of hate towards Mr. Adamowicz’s political party. Despite this, the mainstream Polish media proclaimed that this was not a politically motivated or hate-driven murder. Instead, they focused on the fact that the perpetrator was mentally ill and had criminal history.

I disagree. This murder was driven by hateful political speech and committed because of hate.

This was a crime of hate against Mr. Adamowicz’s party, against his liberal ideology, against his support for LGBT movement, women’s rights and refugees, and against his calls for freedom and compassion. Not calling it by its name trivializes the crime itself, and also the deeply rooted causes. These causes are shaking not only Poland, but many other parts of the world, too.



We must face the fact that none of the the tragedies we’ve seen in the world would have taken place if it weren’t for small – and at first sight insignificant – seeds of hate. Seeds that are planted in our everyday lives. Seeds that we ignore and forget, because of comfort, or because we want to get through a day without confrontation.

Yes, this individual might have had predispositions to commit a crime, perhaps even such a violent one. But it’s the seeds of increasingly institutionalized hate and discrimination – as well as the silent approval of aggression and violent speech from the government, media and society – which are the real, terrifying causes.

Seeds have fallen on fertile ground, and bloomed into hate so tangible it can take lives, whether in Gdansk, London or Christchurch.

As a white European woman, I am privileged. I am rarely a victim of hate, racial discrimination or morphed prejudice that turns violent. But it is my duty to stand up to racism, hate and bigotry precisely because of this privilege. It’s a duty that, too often, I forgo. Whether out of tiredness, fear or pure ignorance, the reason is irrelevant. I am guilty nevertheless. But enough is enough.

Seeds of hate are sprouting in our own garden. We must stop them now before they grow into something unstoppable.

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The Global Mental Health Burden

It is estimated that 1 in 4 people globally will be affected by mental or neurological disorders in their lifetime. Yet, the magnitude of mental illness is not matched by the amount of resources and awareness that the burden demands.

Mental illnesses affect women and men differently. The prevalence of mental health issues in women is directly related to the frequency and severity of gender discrimination, violence against women, socioeconomic disadvantage, and subordinate social status.

Depression, predicted to be the second leading cause of global disability burden by 2020, is twice as common in women as it is in men, affecting women at a rate of 41.9% and men at 29.3%. Additionally, 80% of people affected by violent conflicts, natural disasters, and displacement are women and children, which also contributes to greater trauma and stress. In a lifetime, violence against women ranges from 16% to 50%, and at least 1 in 5 women will suffer from rape or attempted rape.

Gender stereotypes of greater emotional issues and sensitivity in women prevent some women from seeking treatment or serve as a barrier to accurate diagnosis and treatment. In fact, women are prescribed mood-altering psychotropic drugs at a higher rate than men. Women also report receiving insensitive care in relation to trauma, such as victim-blaming for sexual assault, which serves as another barrier to accessing treatment.

Alleviating the burden of mental illness in women will greatly reduce the burden of global mental health, especially for depressive disorders. However, before eliminating gender bias in mental health care, countries worldwide must first implement stronger mental health services overall. Currently, countries face many barriers to implementing such programs, including stigmatization, lack of financial resources, and shortages of trained professionals.

Some mental disorders can be prevented while most can be properly treated, but countries must invest the time and resources to this cause. The World Health Organization reports that 40% of countries do not have a mental health policy and over 30% do not have mental health programs. Ignoring the growing burden of global mental health will have severe social and economic consequences worldwide, especially if women and men continue to be misdiagnosed and mistreated.

Cover photo credit: Darcy Adelaide/Flickr (Creative Commons)