Treating postnatal psychosis effectively will always require some form of medication. However, the type and combination of medication that is taken will vary between individual women so a psychiatrist, preferably one specialising in perinatal mental health, will always need to be consulted.
It may also take some time to figure out the right dosage(s) and combination of medications as everyone responds differently. Likewise, the length of time a woman will need to stay on medication will vary.
The different types of medications typically used in the treatment of postnatal psychosis include mood stabilisers, antidepressants and antipsychotics. For more information about these medications we recommend you speak to a psychiatrist.
Try to be as informed as possible
Some people find the prospect of taking psychiatric medications confronting. Many people naturally have concerns about possible side effects and the length of time they will need to stay on them. There are also pre-conceptions associated with psychiatric medications that can contribute to people’s uncertainty and belief that there is stigma associated with taking psychiatric medication.
If you’re feeling at all uneasy, we encourage you to get as much information as possible about the medication that is being recommended. It’s vital, however, that this information comes from an expert source. Don’t be afraid to ask the treating psychiatrist all the questions you need to. Expert advice can also be obtained from Medications Information Helplines which are available in each state. We discourage you from seeking information about medications from unreliable sources on the internet.
Medication and breastfeeding
Some women may have no choice in stopping breastfeeding if the medication they need to take is unsafe for the baby. For some women, the inability to breastfeed their baby may cause them significant feelings of loss and grief.
If this is the case, it’s helpful for others to acknowledge this sense of loss and try to understand what it means for the woman as a new mum. While not all women will experience grief, many women find that speaking with a counsellor, family member or friend, can help them process their loss.
Encouraging her to do the bottle feeds herself will help to promote bonding.
Counselling can be useful if a woman feels ready to speak about how she is feeling. Many women find it beneficial having the opportunity to explore their experience of postnatal psychosis and any ongoing impact of this experience with a trained counselling professional.
In counselling, feelings and beliefs can be explored and supported. Women can also learn strategies to help manage distress during difficult times. Your GP or mental health provider can make a referral and work closely with other health professionals, such as a psychologist.
The PANDA National Helpline is free and confidential and can also put you in touch with counsellors experienced in providing support to people who have experienced postnatal psychosis.