I wanted to share my updated Postpartum Psychosis story ahead of tonight’s documentary Theroux’s – Mothers on the Edge, which will air on BBC Two (12 May 2019) at 9pm.
I will also be sharing how I overcome Postpartum Psychosis and some tips – Post to follow.
Theroux’s latest documentary will see him talking to three women who have experienced postpartum mental illness.
When I was 25 years old I became pregnant with my first child. I was overjoyed, I had always wanted a baby and when the two pink lines appeared on my pregnancy test I just knew that this baby was wanted!
The 12 week wait for a scan seemed to take forever, I was eager to meet the midwives and get a glimpse of my baby on a scan. My excitement was through the roof but it didn’t last long. Almost immediately I was being told by the booking midwife that I needed to be referred to a perinatal mental health team due to a history of mental illness. Basically I was told having mental illness, past or present, comes with pregnancy risks.
The pregnancy itself went smooth, I felt so happy. I looked after my body, I ate well and exercised. I did everything to try and help my mental health. Everything changed when I went into labour.
My labour was long, after 33 hours of no sleep I began to hallucinate. At first I thought it was the gas and air making me feel strange.
I imagined that I was in a lab. Everything around me was so clinical and white. The brightness of the room hurt my eyes. I remember doctors coming in and out of my room and being told by my husband and midwife that there were no other doctors present in the room with us.
It was a very traumatic experience, not only was the labour long, I also had a postpartum haemorrhage.
With doctors and midwives concerned for my life, all mental health observations went out of the window.
I was physically made comfortable and when not at a risk of further bleeding, I was sent onto the postpartum ward.
My husband was sent home and I was alone with my baby feeling scared and weak. I had only delivered the baby 4 hours earlier.
Within hours of giving birth the hallucinations came back. I felt scared. I thought that someone was watching me from behind the curtain of my bed space. I saw what looked like a persons feet under the curtain and I saw the curtain start to sway.
I looked at my baby. Oh how I loved him. He was everything I’d ever wanted yet I felt fearful of him. He needed me to look after him. How was I ever going to manage.
A day later I was sent home from hospital. Not one member of staff noticed my declining mental health. They again were more concerned with physical aspects.
My perinatal mental health psychiatrist did visit me on my day of discharge but this was a quick hello, she congratulated me on my birth and asked if I was feeling ok.
At home things got worse. I started to think that people were against me, I felt that family members wanted to steal my baby and I believed my husband was drugging me.
I did not answer the door to anyone and would often at night leave my home to escape. I convinced myself that I was being followed and tracked so had to put my mobile phone down a drain.
My behaviour was very unsettling, dangerous and impulsive. I was delusional to the point of destruction. Only when an attempt on my own life was made, was I listened to.
A doctor had previously diagnosed me with postnatal depression but after 8 months of hell, the mental health crisis team were called and it was then discovered that I had been suffering from extreme postpartum psychosis (PP). I truly believe my delusions and paranoia were the things that kept it hidden for so long – I didn’t trust anyone.
PP is a rare psychiatric illness which include symptoms of high mood and racing thoughts (mania), depression, severe confusion, loss of inhibition, paranoia, hallucinations and delusions. It usually starts around 2 weeks postpartum but it can begin at any point.
What was going to happen now? The crisis team said the best course of action was to take me to an acute psychiatric ward.
Not wanting to take my baby away from me, my husband asked about the mother and baby unit in Cardiff?
We were told that the unit was due for closure and I could not go there.
They informed us that the closet mother and baby unit with space was in London.
My husband had to make a choice. Let his wife go to a mental hospital alone or let his wife and baby go to a unit in London.
The professionals agreed that to take me away from my son would be counterproductive. Travelling to and from London would not be possible for my husband so a unit in London was ruled out fast.
In the end we all agreed to home treatment and so began a long journey to recovery.