New mothers’ hallucinations and paranoia: Postpartum psychosis signs, symptoms and treatment

TORONTO –

While it is common for many new moms to experience postpartum depression or anxiety, postpartum psychosis is another mental health issue that one advocate says is often overlooked.

Patricia Tomasi, co-founder of the Canadian Perinatal Mental Health Collaborative (CPMHC), says she began to experience paranoia and delusional thinking after giving birth.

“The thing about postpartum psychosis is that you don’t realize that it’s actually happening to you,” she told CTV’s Your Morning on Thursday.

“I was having religious delusions. I thought I was sent by God to heal people and I’ve never been religious before.”

Postpartum psychosis is a rare condition where new mothers can begin to have episodes of hallucinations and paranoia; 1 to 2 in every 1,000 new mothers have experienced this condition. In some cases there have been suicides or infanticides by mothers experiencing irrational judgment.

This was the case for Flora Babakhani, a mother from Toronto who died by suicide after experiencing postpartum psychosis earlier this year.

In honour of Babakhani’s memory, the CPMHC created a walk across Canada to raise funds for perinatal mental health resources. The group has so far raised more than $75,000 and will be hosting a walk in Yellowknife over the summer.

WAYS TO HELP

Tomasi says it’s imperative to recognize the signs of a mother in distress. Some signs include becoming out of touch with reality, rapid mood swings, reacting out of character and difficulty communicating.

In the event of a postpartum psychosis episode, it must be treated as a medical emergency and 911 should be called immediately.

Additionally, seeking help from a health care provider is essential to connect those struggling with perinatal mental health issues.

“Make sure that you have a health care provider that listens to you and can help you with resources in the community,” Tomasi says

Currently there aren’t enough resources or screenings offered to Canadian mothers experiencing this disorder, Tomasi says. However, after a recent talk with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, she’s hopeful more perinatal services will be introduced in the future.

“We’re very encouraged to see that the federal government has perinatal mental health on its radar,” she said.

For now, Tomasi encourages other new moms struggling with perinatal mental health issues to not be afraid to share their experiences in order to find help.

“We just have to keep talking about it and not be afraid to share our stories.” 

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