Involuntary Electro-Convulsive Therapy - Action on Postpar...

Action on Postpartum Psychosis

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Involuntary Electro-Convulsive Therapy

GuidanceRequired profile image

Hi Everyone,

My wife is currently three months into a recovery from psyscotic major depression, and because of our circumstances she has moved between several hospitals and in-between countries. After returning to our home country I had to admit her again because she was medicine non-compliant at home and this was making her unstable and deteriorating.

Anyway she has been in a special mother baby unit for 2 weeks now and they have become aware that she will avoid and spit out medicine by herself. So from three months until now, we only know for sure that she has been taking anti-depressant and anti-psychotics for two weeks. BUT... The doctors are trying to force her to have electro-convulsive therapy. She is currently an involuntary patient meaning the law is keeping her in hospital and the doctors can regulate treatment. But I don't agree to the ECT treatment, and she doesn't agree, yet they are proceeding anyway to allow a tribunal to make the decision. I don't believe she is bad enough as she IS recovering. Furthermore they keep increasing her medicine dosage and this is making me very uncomfortable. Has anyone had ECT therapy and how did it help or hurt you? What do you think of the doctors forcing her to get it when the only real reason to justify it is that she will not take medicine easily at home. She may take it but with difficulty and will refuse more and more... And she is slowly improving. She has always said the medicine makes her worse.

16 Replies

Hi, I was in a similar position during my therapy. It was complying to take my medicine but my recovery wasn’t as quick as the medical team wanted to see.

As a result their next step was ECT. Both myself and my dad pushed husband actually felt we should follow the advice however I was given a handout with the description of what it was and it really scared me.

We managed to negotiate more time in my ward round-a week, 2 weeks at best and for some reason the threat of this treatment ignited something in me and I did start recovering.

Has your wife been given any information about alternative medicines. To put myself in her shoes and recall why I have behaved similarly in the past it’s been when my choice and control has been taken away. It’s not surprising she may feel she doesn’t have a voice in her treatment.

I learnt the hard way to listen to the advice and then be able to discuss your own care plan effectively. The whole time you are spitting out your meds you lose your rational voice in the eyes of your care team.

There may be an alternative medicine that she would prefer to try.

Wishing you lots of luck.

Take care

Hi there.

I had PPP in 2013, three months after my baby was born. I wouldn't take my meds and used it hide it, spit it out. Eventually I rapidly detirated. I was sectioned and taken to a pyscatric hosp. Without my baby. I didn't know what was happening, I thought i was in jail. My partner had to sign something to say he gave concent for me to have ECT. I had 4 lots. It saved my life! It sounds scary but I don't remember much as I was really ill then. But I do remember someone holding my hand and telling me I'd be ok. They give me a general anaesthetic, so I didn't feel anything. I don't think professionals should force either of you into anything. But my partner and my Dr knew it was the right thing for me at the time. I don't know if this helps, but I'm always here if you need any further advice. I hope your wife is ok and once the meds/ treatment starts working, she will be.

Kind Regards

Anna x :0)

AndyHenderson profile image

My wife underwent courses of ECT many years ago during her PP episodes.

I'll admit my imagination about what that entails was fed by melodramatic TV and film depictions. And I believe that - even now - no-one really knows how it works. But it does.

Back then, it was a benign treatment with no after effects except an improvement in my wife's condition. I'm sure that's still the case. My wife has no traumatic memories or impairments.

I understand and sympathise with your reservations but this is really a common treatment for PP. There's more about ECT in the 'Resources for Partners' page of the APP web site - - under 'I want to know more about treatments for Postpartum Psychosis'.

You're going through a terrible time. Please be assured that my wife - like so many others - made a full recovery after the most extreme illness.


I fully sympathise with you both. I was in this position 7 years ago and my Husband especially felt ECT would be too harsh for me (I’m prone to migraine and am a pretty sensitive individual to almost anything un natural!) I too would spit out the medication- it felt like it was doing more harm and frankly made me feel ‘more detached’ than what my illness had brought about.

I really really feel for your wife, it’s a horrible frightening time.

I was convinced at the time that I would never recover from my post partum psychosis but here I am now, completely well, no relapses, with two beautiful children. There is an end, it’s a question of living through it and emerging in to life again.

In the end time was my healer. I also used homeopathy (I saw an excellent homeopath) and just started to heal on my own. It was relatively slow but because my family and me could see progress we just kept going.

For me home was the best medicine but with round the clock support from my mum whilst my husband worked we got there in the end and I felt the mother and baby unit couldn’t help me as I was too resistant to their treatment plan.

I do know that for some, this is the answer though and medication seems to really help fix people. It just wasn’t for me and I was too scared and resistant to take it.

Just my side of my story

Wishing you all the very best.

It does get better, normality will return.

Lilybeth profile image

Hello GuidanceRequired

Just to add to the good replies you have had already ......

During my PP episodes many years ago, after being sectioned, I was given ECT as medication alone was not working for me. I was completely switched off and actively suicidal. As I was so unresponsive the decision for me to have ECT was made by my husband after reassurance from my care team. Thankfully it worked and definitely lifted me out of the downward spiral I was in ... saving my life.

When I first went into hospital at the age of 23 I had seven treatments in tandem with medication before I was communicating. From there I had more sessions. During my first episode I was in various general psychiatric units for six months without my baby, as there were no mother and baby units in those days. Similarly, six years later after our second son was born I was unable to give my consent again, so my husband agreed to ECT treatment, which again eventually brought me back to reality.

In a way I'm glad the decision was taken out of my hands because I think I would have worried about such an invasive treatment in those days. I can honestly say ECT was the treatment that made all the difference in my recoveries and all these years later I have not suffered any ill effects.

I'm sorry .... it must be such a worrying time for you. I think the doctors will have your wife's best interests at heart, especially if she is reluctant to take medication. I can understand your apprehension as your wife is communicating her wishes but hope a compromise can be agreed.

Remember to take care of yourself at such a stressful time. Thinking of you.

I know they wanted to do this to me , i was so I'll I wouldn't have been able to agree myself when I was in a general psychiatric hospital, my husband refused the treatment as he knew I wouldn't have wanted this.. I don't think I would have forgiven him it he had consented to it. I know I felt like I didnt have a voice as couldn't speak I more than one or two words.. it was a bad place and very bad care.. the actual place was making me Ill and my husband managed to get me away from there... at home began to improve and then went to MBU with my daughter where things were very different and made a good recovery.. I feel if your wife doesn't want this treatment to be faulted to have it may do more harm than good and if she feels she is in control and has a say in her treatment then it will really help her to recover, also she needs to feel someone is on her side... as you feel everyone is against you.. and is very overwhelming. The choice needs to be her if it possibly can. Hope she gets well soon. Xx

Pikorua profile image


I am so sorry about your wife being so extremely poorly. I can relate to her situation now.

I was very ill and unfortunately did not receive appropriate care straight away. I continuously deteriorated as I was misdiagnosed and not responsive to the new drugs available for PPP.

When sectioned I profoundly refused to take drugs and I finally was injected for quite some time. I still continued to have heavy episodes and only with the persistence of my partners intervention to health professionals did I improve slowly.

When finally reading the report I suffered physical abuse and was kept most of the time in isolation. It was a very traumatising experience. I am so pleased that your wife is in an MBU, where she will receive appropriate care. However, I believe it is important to communicate with you and receive agreement by your wife, if she has moment of conscious awareness and not hallucinating...My partner had to get my signature with the help of a witness to be able to intervene with decission making.

I never had ECT treatment, it never has been discussed.

I will be for ever grateful to my partner, - I know I would have not survived the ordeal, because he was the one who got me out of that hospital. My home was my sanctuary.

Mums on here have all recovered from PPP, your wife will, too.

Take good care of yourself and wishing you strengths.

Hannah_at_APP profile image

Hi GuidanceRequired, it’s good to hear from your update that your wife is now at a specialist mother & baby unit. I’m not sure if you are in the UK, which is where APP is based and what I am sharing from my own experience of PP here. Other countries will have different systems and treatments, but I also wanted to share this link about ECT from another UK organisation (which also has other links within it that you might find useful:

It’s so hard when treatment is suggested that you aren’t sure of and are worried about, such as ECT. I think from my own experience (I had PP when my eldest was born 10 years ago) that this treatment in particular has a stigma and feelings of myth/ secrecy/ shame to it as well. I’d only ever seen or heard about it in films and didn’t know it was still used to be honest - until I had it as part of my own inpatient treatment.

From my experience of ECT, it made a huge difference and allowed the drugs to start helping me - as it was seen as a last resort when I was dangerously unwell and not responding quickly enough. I don’t think I was taking my meds properly either, and I couldn’t agree to it so know that it was started whilst I was under section then explained to me, when I “came to” as something that had helped me. I have a gap in my memory of that time, some of which may have been a side effect of the treatment but I also see as my brain having protected me and blocked out the worst of my illness perhaps. Nevertheless, I agreed at that point to further sessions - I was too scared to go back to what I didn’t remember and lose more time away from my family, including my baby, from being so unwell if that makes sense.

I do remember the later sessions I had, and going to the special area of the hospital, having the anaesthetic and coming round again a short time afterwards. The staff were always very kind to me and held my hand and had a drink and biscuit ready when I woke up too. Whilst it’s not something anyone can say for sure, I think the ECT probably helped save my life.

I hope your wife continues to improve and you can all come to a decision about how best to help her. I hated taking medication too but with hindsight it really was helpful to me - and has been to so many. Finding the right balance and treatment that works for her will help too. Wishing you all the best, take care, xx

Lilybeth profile image

Hello GuidanceRequired

I hope the differing shared experiences, links and support about ECT were helpful. Thinking of you and your family .... take care.


I'm sorry to hear that your wife is so unwell. It's very frightening to be in that place regardless of the decision made about treatment. I think the resources others have provided are excellent, but just wanted to add in my personal experience too.

I've had five courses of ECT since my diagnosis of bipolar disorder, with between 9 and 15 treatments each time. I've always had right unilateral ultra brief ECT, and I had no memory or cognitive side effects at all, which is something I am very very grateful for. I've had involuntary ECT once, last year, but under slightly different circumstance - I was declared to lack decision making capacity and my Substitute Decision Maker (I had elected this to be my father) was asked to provide consent. At that time I was frightened and very opposed to the involuntary treatment, but with hindsight I can see that it was the best decision and one that got me back to being myself.

Lilybeth profile image

Hello GuidanceRequired

Thinking of you and wonder if your wife is still in the mother and baby unit? I'm sure she is battling hard to be well and hope she is improving.

Please remember to take care of yourself too at such a challenging time.

Hi everyone, just wanted to say thanks for support and give an update. Electro-therapy was withdrawn from the doctors as a treatment option a few weeks ago due to both my and wife's strong disagreement plus her improving condition. Since the medication was increased she is doing much much better. She is probably going to be discharged from the hospital soon. She is 'almost' back to her old self. So just have to hope that she continues to remain stable and does not relapse again.

EmiMum profile image

Hi GuidanceRequired, thanks for taking the time to update. Those are fantastic news, I am very happy for you both. And I am also delighted to hear that the doctors have taken both of your opinions into account with regards to your wife's treatment. Have the doctors talked about staged visits at home yet? These are clear positive signs of improvement, take good care you both and keep safe.

Lilybeth profile image

Hello GuidanceRequired

What great news that your wife is doing much better on increased medication rather than the treatment option. Such a relief for you both.

I hope your wife is more settled in your home country and will have a plan for after care in the community if she is discharged. Remember to take very good care of yourself too.

Wonderful news! So pleased to hear this. Once that chunk of light opens and recovery starts, it’s usually an upward trajectory and each day you’ll see improvements. She’ll be back to her old self before you know it

All the best

Lilybeth profile image

Hello GuidanceRequired

Just wondering if your wife has now been discharged after doing much better on increased medication? Thinking of you .... take care.

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