My experience

I gave birth to my daughter in 1984, 2 weeks before Christmas. With all the excitement of her being a first grandchild for my parents and Xmas coming, I didn't get much sleep. I was also breastfeeding. My Mum came to stay after a week and noticed that I was not sleeping and becoming increasingly hyper, saying very strange things, so talked to my husband who called the community midwife. She visited and gave me sleeping pills which should have knocked me out, I only slept for an hour. That night I started saying the most unusual things to my Mum (I thought it was normal) and they decided to call the doctor. He realised I was suffering from post natal psychosis and I was sectioned. I was admitted to the acute psychiatric ward for a week, then moved to a general psychiatric ward for another 3 months, where I had my daughter with me in a locked nursery. I became acutely depressed and it took that amount of time to get my medication right. After I was discharged, I stayed on the medication for another 6 months. I was determined I would never have another child, however, 2 years later, I found out I was pregnant again (definitely not planned!) and gave birth to my son. I was closely monitored, but I didn't have one second of psychosis or depression! I really think that there needs to be more facilities for mothers with this type of illness, that they shouldn't be shoved in with the general psychiatric patients. I just want to give hope to other mothers going through this that there is life after this awful illness.

9 Replies

  • Hi annajames

    I just wanted to write and say welcome to the forum. It was really wonderful to hear your hopeful story - which I'm sure will give a lot of hope to other women, particularly those wanting second children etc. I had PP in 2011 and suffered from depression afterwards, a very similar experience to yours by the sound of it.

    I agree that specialist mother and baby units are the best places for women and their babies who have PP. APP are part of a campaign called 'everyone's business' to try and campaign for better perinatal mental health care and more mother and baby unit places. I think things have moved on a lot thankfully since you were ill. I was in a mother and baby unit within 24 hours and was never separated from my baby which was so vital in my recovery.

    Take care


  • Yep totally agree about necessary mother baby units!

  • Hello Anna

    Lovely to hear from you and your story sounds so similar my experience in 1982. The excitement of the first child, first grandchild in both families, breast feeding, lack of sleep, mind on overdrive, slipping into hypomania, with no insight. Then the nightmare began, sectioned, and found myself in the Psychiatric wing, with my daughter, at my local general hospital. Flattened on haloperidol & in for 8 weeks and home followed by crippling depression.

    Like you, I had no further problems with my second child born in 1984. I was almost to scared to show my excitement of having a wee boy in case I was perceived as 'hyper'.

    I totally agree with you about more specialist units and this wonderful APP has done so much to raise the profile of this frightening, little understood condition.

    However, we survive the experience, it makes us stronger perhaps and we go on to lead wonderful fulfilling lives with our 30+ 'clhildren'.

    My very good wishes to you Anna and to you all. Vx

  • Thank you so much for sharing!!! Here in the US no one talks about mental health issues especially around having a child. Only in the past 10 years are we really starting to talk about it. Thank you for your honesty.

  • Hello annajames and Vee82

    It's surprising how our experiences in the 80's are very similar. My first PP was in 1975 and my second in 1981. I was sectioned to general psychiatric care and without my baby for four months before I was sent to another mental health unit where he was allowed to be with me. He was the only baby in the mixed unit!

    In 1981 I was mainly treated at home, except in times of crisis when I was admitted to a psychiatric unit for treatment, a combination of medication and ECT. I also had severe depression which lasted for almost a year.

    I'm really pleased that you both didn't have PP a second time ... that will be a great reassurance to other mums here thinking about second pregnancies.

    My 40+ and 30+ 'children' are such good company, as are my treasured grandchildren. I agree there is so much to look forward to once we are fully recovered. I so admire the young mums on the forum who have total recall and share their experiences to help other women and their families cope with such a trauma, which usually happens out of the blue.

    Very best wishes to you both.

  • My experience in 1982 was not unlike yours. Anxiety, failure to sleep and increasingly disordered speech and thoughts led to me being sectioned on day six after my daughter's birth. I have never forgotten the awareness I had that something was wrong: struggling to control the slipping cogs of my brain, writing numerous notes to myself to try and retain my disordered thoughts until they made sense. It was only when I started screaming, (which felt to me like a wonderful release of tension), that my baffled husband and parents sent for the doctor, and I was swiftly sedated, sectioned and removed to a grim and terrifying psychiatric hospital where the only proposed treatment was ECT. For my whole week there, no one ( except my visiting husband) even acknowledged that I had had a baby.

    Fortunately my husband managed to get me moved 200 miles to a mother and baby unit (in those days it was a two cot nursery for the babies of two mothers in a general mixed psychiatric ward), and there my recovery began. I was released, though still fragile, after 8 weeks. I felt desolate to have missed out on breastfeeding, and the early days when my daughter and I were separated. But the bond was so important to my recovery - my baby was, in the institution of hospital, my only friend.

    My two subsequent babies were born at home, and I used Katherina Dalton's progesterone therapy which was prescribed to reduce the risk of a recurrence. I was entirely well and they were very happy births. Now my elder daughter has a two year old and is expecting again. In both London and Bristol she has found her obstetricians willing to prescribe the same progesterone treatment I had. Since, as my daughter, her risk of PP is elevated to 3 in 100, she feels it is a precaution worth taking. Mother and baby units are vital, but avoiding this devastating illness would be even better.

  • Hi

    Its great to hear that you remained well after having another two children.

    It's interesting you mentioned the progesterone therapy and that your daughter has been prescribed it.

    I did want to say, for the benefit of everyone reading that there has been research that has discredited this therapy somewhat since and that it has been linked to postnatal depression though of course each persons experience is different and yours was positive.

    Warm regards

  • Dear Ellie,

    With the greatest respect you are are incorrect. I have yet to see any piece of research which has discredited the use of natural progesterone. The problem is that its effectiveness has not been validated in a double blind clinical trial. That research simply has not been done.

    There was a clinical trial ( Lawrie 1988) which linked the synthetic progestogen with a higher incidence of postnatal depression at 6 weeks postpartum, but this study concerns a different treatment ( norethisterone) and the risk of a different illness from PP.

    The latest guidance on NHS Q&As " Does Progesterone supplementation prevent post natal depression" (2014) reviews the research. It states that "The use of progesterone for the treatment of other postpartum mental disorders such as mania or postpartum psychosis is not considered."

    Research is needed.

  • Hello annajames and welcome to the forum

    Thanks for sharing your story of PP, and like others here there are similarities that resonated with me. I had PP "out of the blue" in 2009 after my first child and spent time in an acute psychiatric ward before being lucky enought to move to a mother & baby unit (one of the more old-fashioned ones from what I have read here, only 2 beds and now sadly closed).

    I had a second child in 2013 and stayed well, which was an incredible relief after a somewhat anxious time. Nobody really knows why I was in the "lucky" 50% (as that was my risk of recurrence) but there were several things we did to try and minimise risk, including a very different birth, longer hospital stay, low dose of medication on delivery and having a very quiet time at home with minimal visitors and a good awareness in those around me of what to do if things had started to happen again.

    Your message of hope and that we can go on to lead fulfilling lives as both mothers and women in our own right is such an important one. I think awareness of PP and other mental health problems around childbirth has improved even in the last 7 years, but I feel there is more to go. I also feel that with organisations like APP, MMHA and the strong, brave women out there, we can continue to bring hope to others who are suffering or recovering from this horrible illness.

    All the best, take care, xx

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