Pregnancy and triggers

Pregnancy and childbirth can trigger an episode for a high proportion of women with bipolar.  Some (around 20%) could have a postpartum psychosis, a severe postnatal illness which is a psychiatric emergency and usually requires a stay in hospital.

Bipolar UK’s Clare Dolman talks to a couple, Jenny and Henry, who went through it after the birth of their second child. Jenny describes what a difficult time it was but how, with the support of family, friends and caring professionals, she recovered and is now well and happily enjoying bringing up her children:

My Baby, Psychosis & Me is an intimate documentary that reveals the frightening rollercoaster journey of two mums for whom childbirth triggers postpartum psychosis, one of the most severe forms of mental illness. Whilst not currently available on BBC iPlayer a brief description is provided below and you can watch a short clip here.

What is postpartum psychosis?

Postpartum psychosis is a condition most expectant mothers and their families have never heard of, but around one in every five hundred births can lead to the sudden onset of a psychotic episode. New mothers are overwhelmed by extreme low or high moods, strange and dangerous thoughts, paranoia and delusions – such as the belief that they have given birth to Jesus or the devil.

'My Baby, Psychosis & Me' is the untold story of what it means to battle this terrifying condition. Filmed over six months, it closely follows the intense experiences of two women, Jenny and Hannah, and their families, as they are cared for at Winchester's Mother and Baby Unit. From the bedroom to the nursery, the hospital theatre to the psychiatrist's chair – we watch the most personal moments of motherhood and mental illness play out for Jenny and Hannah, as Dr Gregoire and his team face two of the most challenging cases they've experienced.

But in one respect Jenny and Hannah are fortunate; they have access to the expert treatment they desperately need. With a severe shortage of specialist psychiatric care for mums-to-be and new mothers, it's a postcode lottery that determines whether women get the expert help they urgently need – over 80% in the UK don't.

For more information on bipolar and childbirth, see our page on this or download our free booklet.

Please also see this podcast on bipolar, pregnancy and childbirth and read our studies on bipolar, pregnancy and childbirth and lithium and pregnancy.