Post traumatic anxiety years after PP... - Action on Postpar...

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Post traumatic anxiety years after PP, nearly 3 years ago

vlk86 profile image

Has anyone else suffered post traumatic stress related anxiety, even several years after PP from the trauma it caused you? I find that it doesn't trouble me now, most of the time but then something will trigger a traumatic memory and I suffer with insomnia for a few days. I have booked some counselling sessions for this but I think it would help me to know how others have coped with this. Thanks for listening.

14 Replies

Hi vlk86,

I had PP 25years ago, was put in a general psychiatric hospital for a month where treatment was not good.. 2 years ago I was diagnosed with PTSD due to around the birth and the treatment treatment, I have a gp who helps me and have had counselling and emdr .. I try to find a safe place in my mind.. spending time with my animals and walking the dogs. This has all been locked in for many years, so if you are struggling see if you can get some help as soon as possible as it takes time to get some... I get held back because of my fear of psychiatric treatment, but working on it gradually to overcome this ingrained fear of any moves towards going to see a psychiatrist, am hopefully meeting one soon, so maybe will help me to move forwards... not much help I am afraid, hope you are ok.

Hello. Yes I have had repercussions of anxiety and depression following PPP many years ago ! Luckily it doesn’t persist but never goes away totally , it seems. I try to look at it as a positive reminder of having recovered well, got on with life ; even had a jerk reaction when my youngest daughter gave birth a year ago but I had Ppp with her elder brother ! ( now a strapping healthy marathon runner!)

Don’t worry as it will fade ... if not you can get help .

Keep in touch and best wishes Denise x

vlk86 profile image
vlk86 in reply to Denizt

Hi Denise,

Many thanks for your reply. It has made me feel more positive about this.

I have been prescribed some medication by my GP today to help me sleep and ease the anxiety. I'm hoping that this an the counselling will help me to deal these incidences and make them less prevalent.

Like you, I will try to focus on how well I have recovered and see this as a temporary after effect.

Pikorua profile image

Hello vlk86,

I have been just doing some research on PTSD as it is my Module 8 topic in my art therapy course;

PTSD is often categorised as a form of anxiety disorder and can be debilitating and isolating for sufferers. Often people do not seek therapy until 10 years after the original traumatising event, because of misdiagnosis such as depression and anxiety. The centre of excellence study material also highlighted that PTSD was not recognised till 1980 and that recovery can take up to 10 yrs.

Thus, I believe that recovery is not a fast track, but can be debilitating during our life time depending on "how, why and when the trauma occurred, subsequently our make-up and opportunities for therapy and coping mechanisms is a unique journey of recovery. What is interesting that not everybody is affected with PTSD, even though they have experienced the same scenario/trauma. It just indicates we are, unique, diverse (biological, cultural, social etc.)

No doubt I have had PTSD where my anxiety has been

affecting my life quality, particularly the first 6 years after PPP.

Personal experience: Being sectioned in a mixed gender psychiatric unit: inappropriate behaviour, negligence and physical abuse, mis diagnosis, lack of professional experience in peri and post-natal mental health, sudden death of 2 family members.

I was diagnosed with agora and social phobia in the first few years after recovery of PPP. However, I do believe that this was a misdiagnosis as I had a second opinion 8 yrs. later.

The traumatic experience can alter the way how a person thinks and feels. PTS symptoms leads to an over reactive adrenalin and the neurological pattern is changing.

You can research those points below and see whether it fits with your symptoms

• Intrusion & Hyperarousal

• Avoidance

• Negative alterations in thoughts and moods

• Arousal and reactivity

My partner was diagnosed with PTSD years later, but PPP and our experience was the contributing factor,...the lid fills up differently with experiences and for some a bit quicker than others.

I live with anxiety as it is part of my Bipolar and of course my coping mechanisms always works towards trying to reduce Insomnia, avoiding to many stressors, focus on a routine etc...

Therefore, I do believe any type of therapy or therapeutic avenue suitable for your needs will be of great help.

Time to meditate now, which helps tremendously.

Take care,


MESSAGE FROM APP ADMINS: This post contains distressing information. If you are feeling vulnerable, do take care if reading this post.

I am sure there are many women in their seventies who still look back and realise the traumatic experience of treatment within an NHS psychiatric hospital can alter your whole personality. You may not be as spontaneous in your social interactions and the way women were labelled as permanently mentally ill by local communities is dehumanising, not recognising the physiological and the emotional responses which are totally different to a male pattern of psychosis. There are so many factors in this ill where parents and in laws take sides and can be hostile, and always make a point of reminding someone they were mentally ill and talk down to them as if they have never recovered from this illness of over fifty years ago. Post traumatic symptoms with anxiety and flash backs, as to how they were treated, may be more common in the older woman who knows, that nothing has changed in perception of post natal psychiatric conditions. I would opt to see a psychologist for counselling for post traumatic stress disorder.

I found I had a severe kidney infection with E coli. I had a high temperature, and the sepsis was part of postnatal birth complications. I was experiencing hallucinations visual and auditory, and the drugs given were antibiotics, and vitamin injections for a confusional state and a drug, which was toxic and gave liver damage. I developed jaundice. During the term in this hospital, I was water boarded in a bath with my head pushed under the water in a bath, and my hair was pulled by mental health staff. I will not readily see a psychiatrist now I am aware of why I still have memories of the trauma experienced at this hospital . They are overridden by the fact I was able to look after my two children and went back to work later in life and when my children were two. I still believe that people may not be diagnosed for underlying conditons such as thyrotoxicosis, infection which can give rise ot bi polar symptoms which start after giving birth when there was no sign of them before this event.

Women then may be treated differently for being women in a mans' world. If they have careers it is much harder with definitive misdiagnoses by different medical health staff who interpret your mental health problem as being created by the women, and someone how they are the dud one in the box of chocs! Psychiatrists tend to rely on drugs rather than helping people through cognitive behaviour therapy which helps someone understand their symptoms and control them.

Jenny_at_APP profile image
Jenny_at_APPAdministrator in reply to

Hi hawii60

I’m sorry you had this experience, it sounds awful and the effects of trauma can be so long-lasting.

All physical issues should nowadays be tested for and picked up first, before any antipsychotic medication is given (checking for infection etc.).

I think the illness itself is traumatic enough, without the additional negative experiences you were faced with. I’m glad you were able to look after your children and go back to work and that these memories override the bad ones.

Best wishes,


in reply to Jenny_at_APP

Thank you Jenny. This is the first time I have been able to express the problems with old system national health hospitals. The system is only as good as its staff. If there are staff who are not dedicated to their work, then sometimes the treatment of patients can be abusive. I am sure most units are better than the old ones, but was pleased when I saw the hospital I had the endurance to be referred to has now closed. I am one of the lucky ones to have survived these experiences, and to have had a happy life. The website is helpful to young mothers, and the work of volunteers is positive.

Pikorua profile image
PikoruaVolunteer in reply to

Hello Hawii60,

there are quite a few survivors out there, who suffered tremendously. Mums, who have been sectioned and not experienced an MBU may have been victims of ill-treatment.

It is time to speak up, thus, I am very grateful for your contribution and yes, it still happened in my case in 2010. The hospital I stayed in was "refurbished" in 2011.

Luckily things have been changing quite drastically in the UK with the development of more mother and baby units, and the introduction of peri-natal mental health teams and of course thanks to Jess Heron, who founded APP in 2010.

My quality of life had improved once I knew there were other mums with PPP who could share compassion and "understood my footsteps", and at the time in 2015 they were still in stepping stones.

Take good care Hawii60

in reply to Pikorua

I appreciate your response as I realise there are many other women still in the dark not realising the inadequacy of information about PPP. The current trend of drama and TV soaps does not help as it is a stock in trade to bring some kind of mental health problem into programmes. The presenters look on a the poor beings who have had the misfortune to experience these problems but in reality they cant identify with them as it is an abnormal experience where the brain chemistry is altered and is out of control. It is great to see how this website does help people through these times but I still see a resort to drugs and the mother having to leave home, and it is distressing after the most important experience of your life to be separated and spaced out with medications, and you feel alone. In my day I was transferred miles away, and it was a Victorian building, and was the archetypal building for a horror movie. The nineties still were using old historical methods of treatment as entertainment in museums with entry frees rather like the Chamber of Horrors.

Am pleased to see that things have improved and hope you find the right person to help. If you don't get on with the counsellor then try someone else. You need someone who knows how to talk to you so you don't feel you are in a different room when they discuss things. Is all about communication and I am sorry to say the NHS has not got time to chat!

Ellie_at_APP profile image
Ellie_at_APPAdministrator in reply to

Hi Hawii

I too am really sorry to hear about your awful, traumatic experiences and that you had physical issues that should have been dealt with first, rather than presuming you were mentally unwell. As others have said it's so good that you managed to go back to work and look after your children.

Each of our PP stories are different aren't they, including the support we received. It's so important that we can each share our own personal stories. I really hope that the differences between our experiences in terms of the support we receive, will get less and less now as there are now more MBU beds and perinatal mental health teams across the whole of England so I hope now that the majority of women who experience pp will receive the right support.

I had different experience from you, and a really positive experience of the professional care I received. I know they checked whether I had infections etc first and treated that (a UTI) before giving me the anti-psychotic medication.

I went straight from A&E to a mother and baby unit so didn't experience a general psychiatric ward, which we know is usually not suitable for women with pp who have just had a baby.

Personally I feel very thankful for the anti psychotic drugs I was given. I was so acutely unwell, floridly psychotic, not knowing who I was at all and completely unable to look after or connect with my baby. By taking Olanzapine it meant that the worst of the psychotic symptoms went within 1- 2 weeks, and I was able to look after and be with my baby. Yes there were some side effects (feeling tired / spaced out - though hard to know if this was the drugs or the fact I'd been unwell) but I would much rather have experienced that, than been floridly psychotic for longer and not even able to be with my baby at all.

I totally understand though why you may feel the anti psychotic medication didn't really help you and you had negative experiences with it, as you had underlying physical issues that maybe would have resolved your psychosis if they had been sorted out first. I also imagine that the medication has improved since then too, and hopefully have less side effects.

I also received good support at home, including CBT which was so helpful.

And then finding APP for peer support was the final jigsaw piece I needed for emotional recovery. Even with all that support it was still the most difficult and traumatic experience, which is why I feel so passionately about everyone receiving the support I received (MBU admission if needed, access to different therapy afterwards if needed), as it's hard enough as it is, without getting good support.

There is a story on our personal experiences page of our website, which is tragic, written by the son of a woman who had PP in the 1930's, before the NHS, and before anti psychotics were invented, and who never recovered from the psychosis which is probably a good reminder of how far things have improved:

You're absolutely right too, the MBU / perinatal support is only as good as the people that work in them - empathy and kindness from staff is the most important thing! I always emphasise this in the lived experience talks I give.

Take care,


in reply to Ellie_at_APP

Thank you for your kind reply. It is great to see people getting support they need from the website. It is hard to diagnose postnatal complications in some areas. I had what is called puerperal birth fever, which can still cause deaths in maternity units.

It was linked with a kidney infection and fever. I was helped with a urinary tract infection with antibiotics, but several weeks after the birth, the infection reappeared unnoticed.

Had there been more information about other factors such as biomarkers before pregnancy, such as PMT, this would have helped to diagnose a hormone imbalance which would have been treated during the pregnancy by tests.

The biological function of the mother tends to be overlooked nowadays. In the south of England the leading woman gynaecologist Katerina Dalton in the sixties and seventies was a pioneer of maternal hormonal imbalance,. She recognised biomarkers of hormone levels showed imbalance, so the mother received progesterone immediately after birth which was approved by the GMC of which was a head, as being part of the post natal depression, which helped many mothers to prevent post natal depression. PPP is a form of paranoid depression but there don't seem to be any hormone checks during pregnancy, or information about PMT which is a main biomarker of progesterone imbalance.

The research into PMT research showed that women could be aggressive, and may

have behavioural problems. Some women were criminalised due to the mood swings. From the posts I read today, women are treated with sedatory drugs, to treat PPP when the cause as you mentioned may be more complex. concerning postnatal complications.

There are interesting books and research papers written in the BMJ by Dr Katerina Dalton a on the subject of hormonal and behavioural problems due to hormones. Her work is still respected and recognised worldwide in the US and she had Irish US background. Wikaepedia provides a biography of her methods of treatment and diagnosis.

I am pleased the mum of today has better facilities, but believe changes in the woman's body, a day after birth , with breast milk for feeding, are not recognised at antenatal classes, The emphasis is on breathing, relaxation, and control of pain.

I have read posts from women on Olanzipine which makes them gain weight, Further depression may occur as their body image changes after taking the drug. it can break marriages when the mother loses her figure and cannot regain it whilst they are on the drug.

Your helpful and sympathetic comments are an inspiration to many mums and they must thank you for your undivided attention.

Ellie_at_APP profile image
Ellie_at_APPAdministrator in reply to

Hi Hawii

Thanks for you reply.

You are right, Olanzapine, and other anti psychotics, can have some side effects like putting on weight etc, but as I know I've already said I didn't mind to be on it for a time as it really did get rid of my psychotic symptoms and brought me back to 'myself'. I was also put on the lowest doses and reduced after a while too, though I know it can take time.

It's interesting you mention Katharina Dalton's work, which people write about occasionally on this site.

As you may know, APP work closely with clinical world leading experts into Postpartum Psychosis, and they say although hormonal changes may well play a role in PP we need more research to understand this better. Katharina Dalton advocated the use of progesterone therapy for prevention of postpartum mood episodes a number of decades ago, and reported a number of positive case studies. However, there is still a lack of good evidence for it helping and there may in fact be a higher risk of depression in the group treated with progesterone. At present, there is not enough evidence that treatment with oestrogen is beneficial in PP or for maintenance of mood stability after PP. The key clinical guidelines in the UK and around the world (e.g. NICE, SIGN) do not recommend oestrogen in the treatment or prevention of PP. More research in this area would be very helpful.

Do take care,


in reply to Ellie_at_APP

Yes there is more research needed concerning hormone tests and hormone treatment. There is startling information to support how diet can affect oestrogen dominance, and that a diet cutting fats, including trans fatty acids, and saturated fat in dairy, can help women. A lower fat diet relying on olive oil and sun seed margarine

with omega 3 acids may help. There is more information in the united states.

There are signs and symptoms of low progesterone early in pregnancy, especially in the early stages. Hormone production in the early months is crucial to the development of the baby. By the third trimester there is an increase of hormones . Monitoring of progesterone levels is important in prenatal care. Without enough progesterone labour contractions may be premature. Low level of progesterone affect the supply of nourishment to the foetus. Progesterone is produced regularly by the ovaries and the brain during the menstrual cycle by a bio chemical process which breaks down cholesterol molecules through double oxidation. Spotting in early pregnancy is an early symptom of low progesterone levels. With cramping this again the sign of low progesterone. Policies concerning progesterone levels are usually after three miscarriages but not done to detect the signs. Signs of progesterone deficiency are also tenderness in the breast and low back pain accompanied by spotting.

Treatment is available if progesterone insufficiency is suspected blood tests are done to find progesterone and HCG Many complications of birth can be prevented by progesterone hormone such as ectopic pregnancy and miscarriages can be avoided by checking levels of progesterone during early pregnancy.

Article Progesterone or Oestrogen Dominance Dr John Lee MD.

Us. Article found on AZ central. 2017

Article by Jack Reila.

Another article by Kate Daley in "Today's Parent " shows -

"How pregnancy hormones affect your body in each trimester."

This includes mood swings. 2018


Another article by Emma. K Nottingham UK describes a case history of a woman who after 6 early miscarriages convinced her doctors to prescribe progesterone suppositories. Other articles written by Emma Ray talks about progesterone deficiency during pregnancy. What to do after?? by Emma R Wray. 2013.

There is conclusive evidence that progesterone can affect tiredness constipation anxiety from this case study.

Olanzipine may have helped many, but it is rather a blanket method of treatment without recognising that progesterone deficiency can be major cause of mental health problems during the pregnancy and vital to protect the foetus and to avoid miscarriages and other birth complications.

Hope there is better research on hormones and tests done, as these may be routine in the US .

My daughter had a miscarriage and there was no progesterone level tests available with the first few weeks of pregnancy. Seeing Emma Wrays comments in 2013 concerning 6 miscarriages, I do think this is a conspicuous absence of comprehensive research which affect the lives of many mothers in the present and the past and future. There are no tests done as far as I know for progesterone levels. If spotting occurs, many wont be transferred to a gynaecologist to ensure progesterone levels are not too low.

Your comments on research would be welcome as an administrator to many on this website as to the absence of tests during pregnancy for progesterone and human chorionic gonadotropin hormone (HCG) in the early months of pregnancy. The use of progesterone should be used if a diagnosis of deficiency is shown, and may be it is in some cases. May be you have more recent information? Kind regards.

guinea1 profile image
guinea1 in reply to

I am so sorry to hear of your treatment, it makes me so sad that women have been treated so harshly, thought mine was bad enough 25yrs ago, I struggle so badly with the thought of seeing anyone new in the mental health profession as the treatment in a general psychiatric hospital still haunts me, causing severe anxiety, still in the process of recovery for PTSD, I experienced both sides of the coin.... in psychiatric hospital and the private clinic/MBU , within months of each other... the care was like chalk and cheese... I still feel so traumatised from the hospitals care or lack of, simple they just contained me and drugged me up.. used to drag me by the arm to the dinner hall or to the community area trying to mix me with other patients I had nothing in common with... every single day I was terrified for my life as angry male patient had ripped a door off the hinges and was shouting, I went out of the room and kinda done the crying but not as was emotionless, a nurse took me back, patted my arm and that was it, remember one day when I was first there asking where the toilet was and the nurse huffed and said you know where it is it is over there but at that moment I had no memory where it was until she had told me. When I went to MBU with baby the treatment was so different even though I didnt trust at first they showed me kindness and understanding helping me to bond with baby... though even with this care it was only really about me getting well enough to look after baby and I could have fone with some counselling or something.. and just maybe I wouldnt be in such a state now... but they probably didn't realise how I had been treated at the hospital... at the moment I feel a lot of anger for all who have suffered in the past, I am hopefully thinking this anger maybe just part of healing, need to talk to the doctor how to go forward as it is gradually building up. You take care x

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