How is postpartum psychosis treated?

Postpartum psychosis is a psychiatric emergency. The woman may need to be admitted to hospital for treatment.

Ideally, she would be admitted with her baby to a specialist psychiatric unit called a mother and baby unit. For some women, this allows them to continue bonding with their baby and gives them confidence in their role as mother.


Typically, a woman with postpartum psychosis would be prescribed one or more of the following drugs:

  • An antidepressant , which works by balancing mood-altering chemicals in the brain. It can help ease symptoms such as low mood, irritability, lack of concentration and sleeplessness, allowing the mother to function normally and cope better with her new baby.
  • An antipsychotic (neuroleptic), which works by blocking the effect of dopamine (a chemical that transmits messages in the brain).
  • A mood stabilising drug. If lithium is prescribed, regular blood tests are needed at least every three months to make sure lithium levels are not too high or low.

Doctors will weigh up the effectiveness of these medications with the risk of side effects and the risk of any harmful effects on pregnancy or breastfeeding.

Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 21 Dec 2018