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Postpartum psychosis

Postpartum psychosis (puerperal psychosis or postnatal psychosis) is a serious mental health illness that can affect a woman soon after she’s given birth.

Postpartum psychosis:

  • affects about 1 or 2 women in every 1000 – although rare, it can be very serious
  • usually develops in the first month after you’ve had your baby – it’s common for the symptoms to start in the first few days
  • can last several weeks or longer – but you’ll usually recover fully
  • can happen to any woman and often occur out of the blue, even if they haven’t been previously ill
  • is much less common than baby blues or postnatal depression

Signs of postpartum psychosis

If you have postpartum psychosis you might:

  • feel extremely happy or overly anxious
  • start to feel differently about your baby, or have unusual ideas about yourself, your baby or other people
  • find it difficult to know what’s real and what’s not
  • sometimes feel like harming yourself or your baby

It can be a frightening experience for you and your partner, friends and family.

If you have bipolar disorder, or you’ve had postpartum psychosis before, it’s important for your partner or family members to know what the symptoms are. They may be ones who notice them first.

Get medical help immediately

Postpartum psychosis is a psychiatric emergency and you should seek help as quickly as possible.

If you or your partner has any of these thoughts:

  • tell your health visitor, family nurse or GP immediately
  • phone the NHS 24 111 service

If you or your partner needs urgent help, phone 999 for an ambulance.

Translations and alternative formats of this information are available from Public Health Scotland.

If you need a different format or language, please contact

Last updated:
6 November 2023

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