Postpartum psychosis to bipolar disor... - Action on Postpar...

Action on Postpartum Psychosis

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Postpartum psychosis to bipolar disorder

I’ve wrote on here a few times and always value the response I get then I tend to forget about the page as life is so busy.

I was diagnosed with postpartum psychosis after the birth of my son 3 years ago and we spent nearly two months in a mother and baby unit. Previous to his birth I had a long history of depression, begged for a perinatal cpn when I found out I was having him at 20weeks and was told they were too busy. A category of failures on behalf of our local mental health services resulted in a terrible time for me and my family.

I have been on lithium and up until recently olanzapine. I had a fair idea that things would be pointing more towards bipolar now as it’s no longer postpartum. At no point has my psychiatrist or Cpn discussed this with me though. I needed a supporting letter for a council house recently in which it stated I had a long history of bipolar disorder.

Was news to me. Lol. Prior to my sons birth I had not shown any symptoms or traits relating to bipolar only long periods of depression. Taking things a day at a time just now getting to know the new me. The thing I hate is not knowing who I am going to wake up to be the next morning. I will keep fighting though. J x

5 Replies

Hi J42018

Thanks so much for your honest post. I am sure there will be a lot of members here who will have had a similar experience to you, who had the postpartum psychosis, but go on to have a bipolar diagnosis. I'm sure they will have really valuable tips to share. I haven't had this experience but I am very aware that I am now always at risk of possibly relapse or dip in mood (I had depression after the psychosis episode as well) so I try to look after myself - getting enough sleep, doing things I know help me feel well, for me things like journaling, meditation and yoga, and spending time with close friends.

I'm sorry you didn't get great support during pregnancy and after. That is so frustrating as you knew, I imagine, that you were going to struggle. There has been increasing NHS funding for maternal mental health so I really hope things are slowly improving.

I wanted to make sure you have found Bipolar UK - they may have some resources and support that is helpful?

I also know a lot of people have found it helpful to take part in research with the Bipolar Disorder Research Network, and also use their mood monitoring True Colours app:

Take care, and it's so great you can reach out on here. We are here for you.


KatG profile image

Hi J - it’s lovely to read your update and see the photo, what a gorgeous boy you have!

My experience is very similar sounding to yours - I was diagnosed with bipolar after postpartum psychosis (and a long MBU stay) after only ever experiencing periods of depression prior to his birth. I think the psychiatrist perhaps interpreted behaviours in my teens and twenties as possible hypomanic phases. I’m not sure though - I guess the psychotic episode was enough for me to get the diagnosis.

To be honest, it doesn’t make a huge difference to me what diagnosis I have on file. I’m aware of my mental health, how to try and protect it (guard against stress, get good sleep etc). Every two years or so I will have a bit of an episode of feeling overly busy, stressed, racing thoughts etc that then crash down into depression. At that point I usually go back on antidepressants (if I’m not on them already). I’ve talked to the community psychiatrists about a long term mood stabiliser like lithium but we agreed I would self manage my moods on just mirtazapine (an antidepressant) and occasional low doses of Quetiapine (an antipsychotic).

The main thing that occupies my mind, when it comes to my own mental health, is the impact these periods of depression can have on my son. He’s 9 now and increasingly aware of my moods and how I can go “absent” emotionally and psychologically sometimes. He’s doing really well though, and we do try and talk to him about it and help him express his feelings when needed.

Hope this helps. There are a lot of resources online if you’re looking for specific ways to manage your moods - eg Bipolar UK, and the website “Get Self Help”.

Hope this helps. Best wishes,

Kat x

Hi J42018

Thank you for sharing so honestly about your experience, and I am so sorry that you found out about your diagnosis in such an unprofessional and difficult way without your CPN or psychiatrist discussing this with you. It must feel like a shock somewhat, but I hope as you go forward will help, as you have said to come to terms with the "new you" even though this is just a diagnostic label.

I've had a very similar experience to you in that I struggled quite a bit on and off with my mental health after postpartum psychosis, and only found out my bipolar diagnosis by default when a psychiatrist in hospital said "why aren't you taking Lithium?"... as you can imagine I wasn't really prepared!

I've been well now for six years with a good balance of mood stabilising medication but more importantly as both Kathryn and Ellie have said - a lot of learning about myself. It's taken time to learn what makes me stressed, what relaxes me, how to protect my sleep and energy, and when to switch off or give myself some comfort in the low times.

I do hope support both here and from Bipolar UK will help you on the next stage of your recovery journey. We're all here to chat and share ideas with, so do keep in touch as much or little as you need.



Keep fighting Lady Friend. Be easy on yourself. The brain takes a really long time to heal after a psychosis. Lithium sucked for me. And olanzapine made me sleepy and feel more depressed.

I switched to Effexor (after 7 other med trials) and it has literally saved my life.

Be well. Take care of the you behind the mental issues.

Good vibes from Canada!

my story is similar! i had psychosis in 2016 with my first son, went on to have my second son in 2019. things were going ok until i started weaning off my medication and that’s when i had my first severe bipolar manic/depressive mixed episode. i was hospitalized for 2 months until they found a medication that worked. I also went through electro convulsive therapy which also helped. i am now stabilized with latuda and i focus on sleep, self-care, and journaling. i’m involved with my church and close friends and family for support. I want to start reaching out to more people who are struggling and offer support, guidance, and care because in the moment of an episode it can feel very overwhelming but being stable and sound minded is such a gift. i hope for that for each one of you on this forum. ❤️

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