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  • Losing Touch With Reality Can Happen to Moms Postpartum. It Requires Immediate Help

    Postpartum depression isn't the only thing women who gave birth need to worry about.
    by Rachel Perez .
Losing Touch With Reality Can Happen to Moms Postpartum. It Requires Immediate Help
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  • Have you seen the movie Tully (available on the Apple Store and soon on Google Play)? Mom of three Marlo, played by award-winning actress Charlize Theron, looked like she was getting the help she needed during the overwhelming and often demanding stage of caring for a newborn. But then the movie took an unexpected twist.

    As it turned out (spoiler alert), Marlo was experiencing postpartum psychosis, and the "help" she was getting from a night nurse, well, there was no night nurse. She had imagined her young self to be the night nurse.

    If you think Tully is fiction, singer Adele shared last year that her best friend Laura Dockrill was diagnosed with postpartum psychosis six months after giving birth to her son. Laura described that her diagnosis was "built upon postnatal depression and exhaustion and escalated into a phase of what I can only describe as hell; mania, mood swings, insomnia, delusions, paranoia, anxiety, severe depression with a lovely side order of psychosis."

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    Laura knew something was not right. She felt that she had fallen out of love with her life, lost faith in herself, and hated who she is — she couldn't even recognize herself. Laura had thoughts that her stitches would split open and that her baby would starve to death because of her. She even accused her partner of kidnapping their baby. That was when she received an intervention.

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    What is postpartum psychosis?

    As the movie Tully showed, postpartum psychosis occurs when a person experiences a break from reality. It usually starts early, soon after giving birth right up to two weeks postpartum. Most women who experience postpartum psychosis do not harm themselves or anyone else, but there is always a risk of danger as psychosis includes delusional thinking and irrational judgment, as described in Postpartum Support International (PSI).

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    Postpartum psychosis (one to two out of 1,000 new moms develop it, says PSI) IS temporary and 100-percent treatable with professional help and medication. However, it requires immediate medical assistance.

    What are the symptoms of postpartum psychosis?

    According to The Motherhood Center and based on a compilation of symptoms by licensed marriage and family therapist Meri Levy, M.F.T., who is also a member of PSI, these are the symptoms that could indicate postpartum psychosis:

    • Delusions or strange beliefs that feel real
    • Hallucinations or seeing or hearing things that aren’t there
    • Feeling confused and disconnected from reality
    • Feeling irritated
    • Hyperactivity
    • Decreased need for or inability to sleep, insomnia
    • Paranoia and suspiciousness
    • Difficulty communicating at a time
    • Rapid mood swings changes and agitation
    • Periods of memory loss and may seem manic

    Women who are most at risk for having postpartum psychosis are those who have a history or family history of depression and other mental health illnesses.

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    Other possible risk factors for postpartum psychosis include women who suffered significant loss or had a traumatic birth or had a hard time conceiving, had a high-risk or unplanned pregnancy, struggled with breastfeeding or calming a colicky baby, and even relationship issues or financial difficulties.

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    How is postpartum psychosis treated?

    As with other postpartum mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs), the first step to getting better is to recognize the need for help and to consult a professional about it. The sooner, the better. It's a case-to-case basis from there, but psychotherapy and medication may be necessary. A great support system is also crucial to a woman's treatment and recovery.

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    Awareness and stigma are still the two main barriers that hinder helping women with this condition get the help they need — heck, even the name itself is scary. In speaking up, Laura is helping herself and hopes to help other women, too!

    "It’s nothing to be embarrassed about, it’s a chemical imbalance, an avalanche of hormones and it is NOT your fault," Laura emphasized.

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