This month, we want to spotlight a perinatal mental health complication that is often misunderstood and has recently received media attention. Perinatal or postpartum psychosis is a mental health condition that occurs during pregnancy and the first year following birth. This condition is deemed a mental health emergency due to the risk for harm to self and others, including infants and children. Timely screening and treatment are critical for optimal recovery.

Postpartum psychosis is characterized by the mom, pregnant woman, or birthing person losing touch with reality. Specifically, they may experience auditory or visual hallucinations where they hear or see things others do not see or hear. They may also experience delusions, characterized by strange or inaccurate beliefs, which can be associated with perinatal suicide and infanticide. Other symptoms include cognitive impairment, irritability, difficulty sleeping, paranoia, mood swings, and persistent thoughts about death or lack of safety1.

Approximately 1-2 moms or birthing people per 1,000 births experience postpartum psychosis2. Those who have been diagnosed with or have unmanaged symptoms of bipolar disorder may be at greater risk for this perinatal mental health complication. Although psychosis is a serious mental health condition, it can be treated.  Treatment typically includes hospitalization, medication, and therapy. For those who experience postpartum psychosis to receive necessary treatment, there is a need for health care providers and birthworkers to receive adequate training on the breadth of perinatal mental health complications, as well as screening and referral processes. Additionally, there is a need for parents and family members to receive accurate education about all perinatal mental health complications and available resources. We have included resources for providers and families in this newsletter.


  3. Psychosis Symptom Checklist (PSC) and Overview