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The role of psychiatric symptoms and parenting stress

Postpartum psychosis is the most severe mental illness that can occur in the postpartum period, so that it is considered a psychiatric emergency and requires urgent treatment and, in most cases, hospitalisation. Postpartum psychosis usually develops very soon after childbirth and symptoms include elation, depression, with rapid fluctuations, as well as psychotic symptoms (delusions and hallucinations), often centred on the baby, and disorganized behaviour.

Luckily, contrary to postpartum depression, postpartum psychosis is relatively rare, occurring in 1–2 per 1000 deliveries in the general population. However, some women are more at risk to develop this illness, and these are women with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, schizoaffective disorder and those who have already experienced postpartum psychosis with a previous delivery.

Although these women are more at risk to develop the illness, we know very little about why some women considered at risk become unwell after delivery while others remain completely well. Some of the most significant risk factors reported in the studies include sleep deprivation, having experienced psychiatric symptoms during pregnancy and being a first-time mother. However, many other factors remain to be investigated. The little amount of research in postpartum psychosis is in contrast with the numerous known risk factors for antenatal and postnatal depression.

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