Puerperal (also known as postpartum or postnatal) psychosis is a very rare but severe mental health disorder that some women experience in the weeks after having a baby.
The onset of puerperal psychosis is unexpected and rapid. It usually occurs within 48 hours to 2 weeks of giving birth but may occur up to 12 weeks after the birth. The woman may experience mood swings, confusion, strange beliefs and hallucinations that represent a dramatic change from her previous functioning.
The cause of puerperal psychosis is unknown, but women with a history of bipolar disorder or who have experienced puerperal psychosis after previous births are at much greater risk.
The potential consequences associated with puerperal psychosis are severe, as the mother may be at risk of self-harm and there is risk of harm to the infant and/or other children. Urgent mental health assessment and involvement of a psychiatrist are necessary.