|Classification and external resources|
|Incidence of psychoses among Swedish first-time mothers|
Postpartum psychosis (or puerperal psychosis) is a term that covers a group of mental illnesses with the sudden onset of psychotic symptoms following childbirth.
A typical example is for a woman to become irritable, have extreme mood swings and hallucinations, and possibly need psychiatric hospitalization. Often, out of fear of stigma or misunderstanding, women hide their condition.
In this group there are at least a dozen organic psychoses, which are described under another heading “organic pre- and postpartum psychoses“. The relatively common non-organic form, still prevalent in Europe, North America and throughout the world, is sometimes called puerperal bipolar disorder, because of its close link with manic depressive (bipolar) disorder; but some of these mothers have atypical symptoms (see below), which come under the heading of acute polymorphic (cycloid) psychosis (schizophreniform in the US). Puerperal mania was first clearly described by the German obstetrician Osiander in 1797, and a literature of over 2,000 works has accumulated since then. These psychoses are endogenous, heritable illnesses with acute onset, benign episodic course and response to mood-normalizing and mood-stabilizing treatments. The inclusion of severe postpartum depression under postpartum psychosis is controversial: many clinicians would allow this only if depression was accompanied by psychotic features (see below).
The onset is abrupt, and symptoms rapidly reach a climax of severity. Manic and acute polymorphic forms almost always start within the first 14 days, but depressive psychosis may develop somewhat later.