World mental Health Day: Postpartum Psychosis

Today’s guest post comes from freelance journalist and mum of two, Lucinda van der Hart, to mark World Mental Health Day which is today.

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When I cast my mind back to the early days after giving birth to my children, I recall a roller-coaster of emotions. I told my birth story at high speed to almost everyone I clapped eyes on – and then, only a few hours later, I would be in floods of frustrated tears over my problems with breastfeeding.

At the time, I found the experience tough (especially when baby no1 was born). But, a few things that have occurred in the past year have caused me to reflect on just how fortunate I really was.

Almost exactly a year ago, a relative – let’s call her Anna – a delighted new mum aged 34, was diagnosed with Postpartum Psychosis. Bizarrely, another friend, Katie, aged 28, also had her first baby and, just like Anna, within two weeks of the birth she was diagnosed with the same condition.

You may never have heard of Postpartum Psychosis – until last Autumn, I hadn’t either. PP (which confusingly is sometimes also referred to as Puerperal Psychosis) is a relatively rare psychotic illness that presents following childbirth. In the UK, it affects one in 500 women after delivery (that’s around 1300 women annually). Symptoms, which can be deeply distressing for mum, dad and wider family alike, can include a feeling ‘high’, racing thoughts or a sense of pressure to talk. Or a mum suffering PP may experience low mood, lack of energy, inability to sleep, confusion – and she may also experience psychotic symptoms such as delusional thinking or hallucinations. In this country, PP is one of the leading causes of mothers dying after childbirth.

Both Anna and Katie received extensive medical support – but I found myself asking what, as a friend, or relative could I do? I’m the praying type, and I found myself pleading with God to help them, their families and, of course, their newborn babies. Then I came across Action on Postpartum Psychosis (APP)the only charity specifically dedicated to supporting those with Postpartum Psychosis and their families, as well as progressing with all-important research on what remains a little understood condition.

When I’m not mummy-ing or writing, I can often be found making jewellery at my kitchen table. This year, I have opened an online shop on Etsy selling some of my pieces. I’m giving a third of my profits to Action on Postpartum Psychosis. If you’re interested, take a peek at www.redenti.etsy.com.

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Mums across the UK are battling this thing right now. For me, today – World Mental Health Day – is an opportunity to raise awareness both of a little-known illness and an incredible charity helping to turn lives around. Will you add your support to this cause?

Today I want to honour the memory of Anna – who sadly didn’t made it through the challenges of the illness – and encourage Katie – an amazing first-time mum who has made a miraculous recovery.

 

For more information on Action on Postpartum Psychosis, visit: www.app-network.org

To view Lucinda’s handmade jewellery, visit: www.redenti.etsy.com

 Lucinda on Twitter: @Lucindavdh

Lucinda van der Hart is a freelance journalist and mum of two

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