Vicky’s Story

Vicky’s story

*Disclaimer*
Please be aware that Vicky’s story content may cause distress to some, for this reason it comes with a Trigger Warning.
Vicky experienced PPP Post Partum Psychosis.

My partner Andy and I had been together for a couple of years when we decided to try for a baby in February 2007. (I had been married for nearly 12 years previously). I remember buying folic acid tablets and thinking how exciting and happy we would be.

I was nearly 37 (Andy was 15 years my junior), but after trying for nearly 6 months, we decided to visit our local GP who said it was quite normal, but because of my age and having no previous children, we could try IVF.

A couple of weeks later, I was not too concerned when I found a pea-sized lump in my left breast as I had had a cyst before which had just disappeared on its own. I went for tests and after three weeks of investigations, Andy and I were told I had a small low-grade tumour. Our thoughts were immediately filled with the word ‘chemotherapy’ and the possibility of not being able to have children. I remember crying as we were told and saying “How can I tell my mum and dad?” Luckily because I had found it early, the cancer had not spread to my lymph nodes, so after a small operation and a course of radiotherapy, I started, what should have been, a five year course of Tamoxifen. During this time I had 6 months off work.

At each review, we discussed wanting to try for a baby, but with my cancer being hormone receptor positive, we were advised to wait.

Finally, after two years (and still cancer free), my oncologist agreed I had gained most of the benefits of the medication and our focus was now back on IVF. We were due to start in January 2010. After further tests, we were soon having injection training and then it was a matter of waiting for my cycle to start. As days, then weeks passed, I did a pregnancy test. Andy and I were both amazed as trying naturally and without IVF, my test on 14th December 2009, came back as positive!

On 18th December 2009 my maternal Grandfather fell whilst feeding the birds in his garden and broke his hip. He was admitted to hospital. Five days later, I was at home (having been signed off work for the first time for feeling so sick); when my dad telephoned to tell me he had passed away in hospital. He was 87 years old and my last grandparent. I was so sad I hadn’t been able to visit him and tell him our good news. Telling the rest of my family was not the happy event we had planned, but in some way, bringing new life into the world after losing another, somehow helped to ease the family’s grieving.

We had an early scan at nine weeks and yes, there was our baby – just a little shape on a screen!

At the age of 39, I knew my chance of having a baby with Down’s Syndrome would be high, but we just wanted to be prepared. Measurements on our scans were all within ‘normal ranges’ but my blood test results were 1:130 risk. This meant the odds were quite high, but with a risk of 1:100 of losing our baby through further invasive testing, we went no further.

I remember crying when we were told our options, saying to the Doctor “We’ve waited so long for this baby” and “There is no way we are not going to carry on”.

I felt very fortunate that I had grown up with a close family friend with a daughter, Linsey, who has Down’s Syndrome. At the time, we were not given any positive information, but for me I knew that Linsey had a great life and a loving family and if our baby was going to have the same, then it was just meant to be.

Unfortunately being pregnant was not at all how I imagined it to be. I was not ‘glowing’ and I did not enjoy showing off my bump. My morning sickness started soon after taking the pregnancy test. Literally within a couple of weeks I started being sick and I could not ignore it. I felt like I just wanted to sit in front of the toilet and stay there. It lasted all day and I felt absolutely dreadful. I was signed off work (as a home carer for the local authority) for two weeks at a time. This made me feel very guilty as I had only been there for 6 months and I felt as if I should just be eating a ginger biscuit and getting on with it like.

After several attempts, my GP found a medication so that I was only sick once a day. I would wake in the early hours each morning and a wave of sickness and almost panic would set in. I was totally miserable and was soon depressed, which I had suffered with since my early teens. I became so anxious that I really did not want to eat at all. By 20 weeks pregnant, I had come to terms with the fact that it was definitely not going to pass. I don’t know how I got through each day. I would try and watch television or read, but nothing took my mind away from how I felt. I did not feel up to going anywhere or doing anything. Even if I did manage to get out, the smells around me would make me feel so sick and I’d have to go home. By the time I got to 27 weeks pregnant, I had been admitted to hospital three times (once by ambulance) and was diagnosed with Hyperemesis Gravidarum – severe pregnancy sickness. I remember saying “Please, just take the baby out!” I felt like I was going mad – I could not go on any longer. It was torture. The nights were even worse. I’d dread bedtime as I knew that soon after I went to sleep, I would be awake again, sitting and staring into the darkness just wishing it would all stop. I wanted someone to take me away and make me go to sleep until it was all over. The only way to describe how my sickness felt is; imagine eating all the greasy fat from the bottom of a roasting dish after cooking a large joint of meat and then trying to eat a cracker to cure it! Alongside chronic indigestion, heartburn and my mental health deteriorating, this was not the pregnancy I had imagined!

Pictured 13 days before I had Ewin

My sister, Amanda, made me a food chart. On it, I had to eat something every hour, even if it was just one strawberry if I could – anything to help me to eat. Andy’s parents and my family worked in shifts to be with me – I felt awful for them. I did countless jigsaws with Andy’s parents and spent time at my mum and sisters.

After taking Complan, my GP finally prescribed Ensure, a liquid food supplement. After numerous appointments and trips to our local hospital and midwife, Treliske mental health team became involved. I was prescribed antidepressants and anti-anxiety tablets (to go alongside my anti-sickness, anti-acid and vitamin B!) I still just felt like I couldn’t go on. I remember looking out the window at passing traffic thinking ‘If I just walked out into the road, it will all stop’.

One evening (at 27 weeks pregnant), my sister Libby took me home to her house. I had packed my bag ready for hospital. I was saying “If I just make a hole in my tummy, they will have to do something”. (I knew I could not have actually done it) but my sister got on the phone to the hospital and they began to realise how desperate I had become. My sisters’ friend Abi was also very supportive. She spoke with her sister who had worked in a Mother and Baby unit and said that I could become sectioned if things carried on.

Somehow, I managed to get to 37 weeks pregnant and with a low lying placenta, a poor physical and mental state; I was booked in for a caesarean section.

I could not wait to get to hospital and into the operating theatre. I was sure my sickness would then be gone and I could finally be excited about being a mum.

Soon, I was numb from the waist down. The green screen was put up in front of me and I was still being sick in what seemed like a room full of people. Finally, a 4lb 13 ¾ oz. little bundle was carried away from me. On 22nd July 2010, our little boy, Ewin, was finally here.

I strained my neck to watch him as they checked him over. Andy said my eyes lit up and we heard him cry. For those precious few moments, my entire world stood still. I was calm and peaceful and my nightmare of the past was coming to an end.

They finally bought Ewin over to me, his little face peeping out of a blanket.

They handed him to Andy and in front of a room full of hospital staff, they said the words we will always remember; “He has the characteristics of Down’s Syndrome”. There were no “Congratulations!” or “Here is your baby!” or “Your son!” It was like our roller coaster ride had ended, only to be then told, get back on, you’re not finished yet. I felt like those words, at that time, had taken our special moment away from us. I looked over at Ewin’s little face and felt so in love. Andy and I were both in tears and in shock. I look at Andy and said “It doesn’t matter does it?” like it was all my fault! He just looked at me and said “No!” and that was that.

We were soon in another room, and still attached to monitors, I was feeding Ewin from a tiny bottle – my medication meant that I could not breastfeed him. Two doctors came in and said that Ewin would have to go to the special care baby unit to check his heart. Blood tests would also have to be done to confirm Down’s Syndrome and his temperature would need to be maintained for him.

I can’t recall much else that day. Our family came and my mum is on video saying “The worst is over now”. We didn’t realise that there was still more to come.

I remember having morphine for the pain of my caesarean wound. I lay my head back on my pillow and felt so tired – it was like watching everything happening to someone else, not me! We stayed in hospital for the next five nights. We had our own room and luckily Andy was allowed to stay with me in another bed they brought in for him. Andy did nearly all the feeds and changed Ewin whilst I felt so exhausted. I still felt just as sick and hardly ate. I was confused and anxious. Ewin had regular temperature checks around the clock, which kept us both awake, and I was visited by the mental health team on regular occasions. We were both asked the same ‘text book’ questions. I was unresponsive and vacant most of the time. Reading my notes after these events, they said that I was disorientated and tearful, confused and wasn’t aware if I was dreaming or awake.

“At some point they noted I wasn’t even sure if I had had my baby”

A doctor came and sat next to me one day, holding a diagram of a heart, saying Ewin had a small atrial septal defect (a hole between the two top chambers of the heart – this allows oxygen rich blood to leak into the oxygen poor blood chambers). This ‘hole’ would need closing when Ewin got to 4 years old, but it was a good result. (Since then, it has almost closed on its own). Luckily Andy was there also to receive this information.

I cannot remember receiving the blood tests results confirming Ewin had Down’s Syndrome or being given any information. We just received a booklet with lots facts, figures, tests and milestones to adulthood. My sister said I just kept looking at it very concerned, like I was being told the news over and over again, so she put it out of sight.

My family and Andy have all said since that they knew I was not ‘right’ and I was definitely ‘not myself’ and I did feel myself that something was wrong. I’d look in mirrors and try and focus and pinch myself to try and wake up. Was it real or was it a dream?

Before being discharged from hospital, I was assessed by the mental health team. Despite me touching the assessors arm and asking him “Are you really there?” they said I was fine and well enough to go home. Looking back, being in close contact with all the hospital staff, surely him or someone else should have recognised something was happening to me, especially with my history before and during my pregnancy. If only my family had been sent away with an emergency contact number and signs to look out for should my condition deteriorate? If I had stayed just one more day, maybe the onset of my psychosis* would have been recognised.

Finally we prepared to leave on Tuesday 27th July 2010. As we were gathering our belongings, the fire alarms went off, the doors closed and I sat on the bed with Ewin in his car seat desperately trying to cover his tiny ears from the deafening sound. The noise was ringing through my head.

This was not how it was supposed to be! Andy and I should have been happy and excited and looking forward to showing him off to our family and friends, but I was just in a daze.

I was bundled into our car feeling scared and wondering if this was in fact my Andy and his dad talking about Ewin and his Down’s Syndrome whilst shouting at traffic. I sat in the back of the car with Ewin in absolute panic. I just wanted to open the door and jump out. I said “I need to go to Libby’s and collect something”. I thought that when we stopped, I’d get Ewin and run to her house. “Get it another day”, came the reply. I sat in fear as we pulled up at home. Someone took Ewin inside and I followed. Seeing the dog sniffing Ewin’s car seat and trying to say hello, I picked the car seat up off the floor. I felt no pain from my operation. Andy was relieved that we were finally home but was very concerned. He said the Vicky he knew was not the Vicky he brought home.

This really wasn’t how it was supposed to be. Andy’s parents had cancelled their holiday after I had been so poorly and Libby was supposed to be coming over to help me make Ewin’s first bottles. I telephoned her “I’m home, you must come over now”. She replied “I’m cooking tea, I’ll be over soon”. The evening was a blur. I could not think straight. Why did I feel so sick? What would happen in years to come? Libby did come over and we made Ewin’s bottles. Andy was relieved that she was there and she kept reassuring us that everything would be ok. I felt weak and shaky and I was slowly slipping even further away from reality.

Pictured with my sister Libby the day I came home

Andy fed and changed Ewin that night. I went to bed, but when I woke I just knew something was very wrong. I sat up in bed and I looked at Andy and Ewin and at the window. I knew I was home, I felt like I was at home, but was it real? I felt so ill and sick. I reached for my mobile phone and put it onto the camera setting. I knew the camera wouldn’t lie and would not twist what I was seeing. Andy woke and sat with his head in his hands wondering what I was going to do next. After a week in hospital and with looking after Ewin and I – he was exhausted. Andy had a lot on his shoulders – he was trying to come to terms with Ewin’s condition and was obviously very concerned about me.

I struggled to eat some cereal. I just did not want to eat anymore. My sister sent me a text message and I kept reading over and over again.

Morning you three! Think it’s starting to sink in Ewin has Down’s Syndrome. I think you have to grieve the loss of the life he would have had. All the hopes and dreams you had for your son have to be altered, but it depends on how Ewin grows and develops as to how much you have to alter them. Love changes everything xxx All my love Libby xxx

I was happy, then upset and just so confused. I was carrying Ewin around the house in his Moses basket, (in no pain) looking out of the window and thinking ‘I need to escape and protect my baby’. Protect him from what, I don’t know!

Both my sisters came over with my two nieces, Molly and Verity. We sat together and they painted my nails and made me eat some toast. I felt safe with them sat round me but I was drifting away from all reality. I was still looking at everything through my phone camera and by the afternoon I started dashing about from room to room totally unaware of Ewin’s needs.  I tried to ring my dad “He’s not home” my mum kept telling me. I attempted to change Ewin, but tried to put his dirty nappy back on him again. At some point my family left I don’t remember when.  I became agitated and I could hear them talking. I ran to the far end of the bungalow, only to take a photograph of an empty room. My phone battery died. What was going on? What’s real? Somebody help me. I ran to the main phone to dial 999, with that, I felt Andy’s arms around me. I struggled to break free and then I don’t remember what happened next.

Apparently, Andy and his mum had spent the day trying to get someone out to see me, but because I had been discharged, the hospital could not help me. Finally a senior midwife came to speak with me from our smaller local hospital which I had visited in a state many times whilst I was pregnant. As she spoke, I just stared at her. I felt like I was underwater and everything was in slow motion. I wanted to answer her questions but I just could not open my mouth. She tried to get someone out to see me but nobody came. I was just staring into space unable to care for Ewin and they just did not know what to do. Andy’s dad came home from work at 7pm, and by then everyone was very worried. They were concerned for everyone’s safety. Andy’s dad said to them that if they didn’t send anyone out to me, they would be held responsible for everyone’s safety. Finally at 9pm, two staff from the crisis team of our local acute mental health unit came out to assess me. They described me as thin, pale (almost jaundice) and in a psychotic state, just staring as I was asked questions. I do remember them just standing in my bedroom for a brief moment and I think I said “It’s ok, I’m back now” as I looked around and saw Andy, our dads and my sister, but apparently I just made a mumbling sound and I slipped away again.

The next thing I remember is watching my feet as I walked down our path to the car to be admitted to hospital. It was Wednesday 28th July 2010 and I’d only spent one day at home. I remember looking out of the car window in the darkness feeling quite pleased to be going somewhere without even a thought of Ewin.

We were shown to a waiting room and I lay down and closed my eyes, all of a sudden I sat bolt upright (no pain from my still new caesarean wound). It was like something from a film. Scenes from my whole pregnancy, time in hospital and coming home, flashed before me in vivid detail to just that moment, like an awful nightmare, but it wasn’t a dream. I felt totally consumed with fear and panic. My head spun and then it stopped to there in that room in that moment with my dad, sister and friend Abi looking at me as if I was about to speak. “It’s real!” I thought I shouted out loud, but once again, it was just in my head. Reality hit me, I was terrified. And then I was gone again.

Soon after at around 11pm, I followed my sister down to my room. I was helped into bed. It was like my body and my brain had decided to switch off. I spent that night and the next three days in a catatonic state. I remained mute and when hospital staff and my family came to visit, I just stared vacantly at them. I would not accept food or drink and was placed on a drip.

I either lay in my bed or was washed and dressed and sat in the chair. It must have been awful for my family seeing me like that. They came every day bringing photograph albums to show me and spent time just trying to get me to swallow tiny amounts of liquid. For me, I don’t remember seeing a single person. Andy said he would sit in tears too upset to speak whilst his dad would try to reassure him I was in there somewhere and that I could hear him talking to me. Apparently I had three lots of visitors every day. I don’t remember seeing any of them.

On 29th July, the first time Andy came to see me, he was told that the hospital were taking blood tests to see if my cancer had returned and spread to my brain. He said he felt numb. It was all too much to take in. He was mentally and physically exhausted. He’d spent 9 months caring for me in and out of hospital and working. This should be such a happy time for him, but instead he was coming to terms with Ewin’s condition, and now they were telling him that my cancer may have returned. He told me after that he was just waiting for a phone call from the hospital to tell him I had died. I wasn’t eating or hardly drinking, surely I would never recover from it all? Andy says he was just thinking about how he would care for Ewin if I wasn’t around.

I remember the small window in the door of my room. I watched as the light turned to darkness and then turned back to day. The bright light shone above my bed into my eyes.

When I seemed to have a brief moment of awareness, I would wonder where I was. Where’s my baby? What’s happening? Why am I here? Are they my clothes? Are those my photos? Is that a photo of me and my baby? Why am I always alone? Should I try and venture out of the door? If I had tried to leave, I would have been sectioned. I was so terrified, that even if I could have moved, I wouldn’t have.

The nights were the worst. I would hardly sleep, but when I did, it seemed to be from one vivid nightmare to another. I could hear doors slamming and voices. I saw the drip above me like it was happening to someone else. I was trapped inside my body just forcing myself to breathe or swallow.

I heard the single bleep of a monitor, like I had died, piercing through my ears and I lay under my sheet, too scared to look out; the dreams all blurred into one. The nightmare I remember most vividly is that I had gone to my sisters and I had actually sliced opened my tummy. I felt a searing pain (which must have been my scar). My legs felt warm, I heard the ambulance siren and my family’s voices and my sister saying “She’s done it!” I saw Ewin in the distance – his curled up silhouette. I closed my eyes with fear about what I had done and each time I blinked, he came closer towards me – it was so real.

Another moment I had is that I thought I was dying. I felt myself going down a long dark tunnel towards a warm bright light. A young woman came over to me and took my hand. She told me to go back to my family. I recognised her as a family friend and knew her name – she had taken her own life. I’m so glad she spoke to me – even if it was all in my mind!

When the nurses came to offer me liquid, I could feel it run out of my mouth but I felt paralysed. Once I plucked up the courage to reach for a sip of water from a cup, but when I next looked it was gone. A jug then appeared and then disappeared again. I remember thinking that I would next have to drink out of the vase of flowers before that goes too!

I’d remembering gazing at the tiny fruit flies darting to and fro for what seemed like hours and listening to songs on a badly tuned in radio placed by my chair. These songs still remind me of how I felt at that time.

Then the morning of Sunday 1st August, I woke thinking maybe this was a test to see if I was a good mother and if I don’t get up, I will stay here forever. I tried to move and the covers flung back! This time the drip was gone (I do remember trying to rip it off at some point before). I went to my window – I had to get back to Andy and Ewin. It only opened an inch so I went to the door. I walked up the hallway opening all the doors, looking in at other patients and all the closed windows. At the end of the hall there was a door. I pushed it. Of course it was locked. If only I could push harder. I went back to the lounge area – no doors, no windows. I was trapped forever. By now I was scared of the other patients, so I closed all their doors one by one and went back to my room. I looked around and spotted the quite sturdy armchair. I slid it over from by the window and then up over the end of my bed against the door. I felt no pain, but now I was here alone forever. I’d failed the test. Luckily for me, I then switched off.

The news of me waking bought my family and I finally saw them! Andy came and we sat on the bed and he held me and we cried. My sister came and took me for a shower. I didn’t want them to leave me; I just wanted to be home with Ewin, being a mum. It was a relief for my family to have me back, as it were, but when they came to visit I could feel my mind drifting as they spoke or I would blink and hours had passed and I would be alone in my room confused as to where they had gone.

My first full day awake, I realised that my sickness had gone! I felt hungry at last and ate cereal! It tasted so good! I was introduced to another patient and she became my ‘buddy’ as it were. We were in a vulnerable adult’s wing, but would go to the main area for activities and meetings. I was very weary of the other patients so preferred to be in my room or in the small lounge. I remember crying and telling staff and my new buddy that my baby had Down’s Syndrome, I was very emotional still but they were all very supportive and positive with stories of people they know or had worked with. It was great to hear and really helped me.

Soon, Andy was bringing in Ewin every day. We would sit in a tiny family room whilst staff checked on us through a small window in the door. I would feed and change him and hold him and cry as I missed him so much.

When Andy rang me in the evenings, I could hear Ewin in the background. I just wanted to be home with them and caring for him like I should be.  It felt like I had been sent to prison, but had done nothing wrong. I was not pregnant, but I was not a mum either It was so hard.

Soon I was assessed and allowed home for an afternoon, then a day and then a weekend. It was wonderful. On Thursday 5th August I gave Ewin his first proper bath, sat and cuddled him and finally ate something at home!

Photo of Ewin’s first bath

I weighed 9 stones before I was pregnant and 10 ½ stones when I went in for my caesarean. I was now just under 8 stone and back on ensure liquid. When my GP heard I was home, he came to visit. It was a lovely surprise. He said carrying a child with Down’s Syndrome could have made my sickness worse. It was a huge relief to hear it wasn’t all in my mind and I shouldn’t have just ‘got on with it’.

I was discharged on 10th August, the day before my 40th birthday almost three weeks after Ewin was born and his actual due date – 12th August!

I still wonder what it must be like to give birth and just go home. I had missed all of that and sharing those first few days with our family and friends and showing him off.

Photo of myself and my sisters, Libby and Amanda, with our mum on my 40th birthday. 

Now when they came, we shared tears of relief that I was well and Ewin having Down’s syndrome was just a small part of what we had all been through.

When Ewin and I were awake in the night, or I’d just watch him sleep, I’d think about the future. Will we outlive him? How will he cope when I’m gone? I shed many tears and I know now that’s ok. There’s not a day that goes by where the words ‘Down’s Syndrome’ don’t go through my mind. But, I’ve never had even a moment where it hasn’t just been a part of who he is and it is just a small part of what makes our son, Ewin.

We would not change anything about him. We are so proud of our little boy and he brings us so much happiness. He is everything we ever wanted (that I waited so long for). I love being a mum, having a family and a loving son. I do get asked whether I’m going to have any more children. When I say no, they usually ask “One’s enough?” and I just smile back. To friends and those I think want to know, I say I would have another son or daughter with Down’s Syndrome tomorrow, but I could not face the sickness and depression and the postpartum psychosis which will haunt me forever. I could not put Andy or my family through it again. Even writing this, my story has been a mission, but I’m so glad I have.

All we want is for Ewin to grow up and be happy, whatever his abilities may be. Surely that’s what every parent wants for their child! When I look into his eyes, or see him dancing in front of the TV, I wonder how anyone can think his life is not a life worth living.

We joined our local Cornwall Down’s Syndrome Support Group when Ewin was about 5 months old. It is great being in contact with so many families. I now help run some sessions. We have made some lifelong friends and our children will be growing up together.

I am proud to have played a small part in creating our books “Looking Up, Going to School” and “Tea at Grandmas” to date. They contain photographs of families from our group. We gift these to local new parents in a gift pack along with hand kitted items for baby, clothing and a toy and a little something for mum, dad and siblings. Our “Going to School” book has also been gifted in several thousand local book start pack. They are all available to purchase. They say a picture paints a thousand words, and we have had so much positive feedback. We also offer support to parents with a pre-natal diagnosis.

I have made great friends with another mum in our village called Lucy she suffered with postpartum psychosis a year before I had Ewin. We met after I asked my local health visitor if she knew of anyone else who had been though anything similar. It soon became our mission to raise awareness of the condition.

In 2017 we met the lovely Cara on a training event and joined forces creating the peer support group “Untangled”. This continues to grow steadily and is really helping local families realise that they can get better (like us) and they are not alone.  We have support from Cornwall’s amazing “Perinatal Mental Health Team” and work closely with them. It is such a shame they were not in place when we were all pregnant.

I have also been involved in local G.P, midwife and other health professionals training, parent and peer support representation and even played a small part in the development of Devon and Cornwall’s Mother and Baby Unit

I used to think ‘How can one person make a difference?’, but being part of these groups and seeing what we have achieved has really made me think that actually, together we can! It would have made a huge amount of difference for us and our families if we had known where to get help and what was happening when we were really poorly.

Having Ewin and going what we went through has given us so many opportunities to help other families and give professionals valuable insight into our lives, pregnancy, and mental health issues and having a baby born with an additional need.

What you say, the words you use will stay with that family forever. It will be replayed in their minds and they will re tell it over and over like the many parents I know.

So if that person could be you please just pause for a moment and maybe think about our story and something positive you can say. It could make such a difference.

I always like to finish on a positive note. Whilst I was still in hospital, my dad was visiting family and friends giving them the news of me being ill and of Ewin’s arrival. When he got to Linsey’s parents’ house (the young lady we knew with Downs Syndrome) she answered the door. He looked passed her at her mum who by that point was sat in tears in the kitchen. She just wrapped her arms around my dad and said simply “It’s ok Uncle Mick – everything is going to be alright!”

Photo of Ewin with Linsey

And you know what? She was absolutely right!

*Postpartum (or puerperal) psychosis is the most severe type of mental illness that can affect new mums. It is a rare condition affecting approximately 1:1000 women (whereas postnatal depression is around 1:8.

Postpartum psychosis usually develops within the first two weeks or even the first few hours of giving birth and can happen without warning.

It is more common in first pregnancies and when birth has been complicated or traumatic. Fluctuations in hormones and sleep deprivation can also play a role. If a woman has a family history or previous episodes of severe mental illness before or during pregnancy, this also plays a part in having postpartum psychosis.

Postpartum psychosis should be treated immediately as a medical emergency as symptoms can rapidly get worse and be life threatening to mother and baby. The two main symptoms are:

Hallucinations – See or hear things that are not there.

Delusions –  Believe things that are not true.

These can severely disrupt a woman’s perception, thinking, emotions and behaviour. She may also behave in a way that is way out of character and experience mania, paranoia, loss of inhibitions, may be restless or agitated, depressed, severely confused and her mood may change rapidly. She may not realise she is ill and it would be up to her family and friends to spot the warning signs and take action. The majority of women make a full recovery, and often very quickly, provided they receive the right treatment and support (ideally being admitted to a mother and baby unit if possible).

None of us had ever heard of postpartum psychosis before and Andy says he does not remember the term being mentioned by anyone involved in my care until we were discussing my progress at my last review before finally being discharged from hospital.

http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/post-partum-psychosis
http://www.cdssg.org.uk Links to our books and other useful information can be found here.