The term psychosis is the name for a group of mental illnesses where there is a loss of contact with reality. With time and careful management, most people do recover fully from these episodes – many never having another episode again.
Unfortunately, a woman is most at risk of developing a significant mental illness during pregnancy or in the first year following birth. Of these, postnatal depression is the most common, but postnatal psychosis, although relatively rare, is the most dramatic and severe requiring emergency, specialist treatment by mental health professionals in an in-patient psychiatric unit. Postpartum psychosis is considered to be a psychiatric emergency, as the safety of the mother and her infant may be at risk. Whether the mother and her infant are cared for together or separately will largely be determined by the severity of the illness, the mother’s symptoms, an individual needs assessment and/or the availability of mother baby unit beds. Not all places have mother baby units, so the options for in-patient treatment may differ depending on where the mother lives.