Puerperal Psychosis & related illnesses

Hospitalisation

You'll read on many websites that the treatment for puerperal psychosis is hospitalisation and forced admission to a psychiatric ward. That is not the case for everyone. The condition is manageable and treatable at home with the necessary support and the patient's willingness.

Hospital can be the right place for intensive treatment. It is a good place to stay to find the right treatment specifically for you, and can actually be a place to meet people who are suffering the same condition as you, which can be therapy in itself.

Can I go voluntarily?

Yes, you can. If you understand you're not well and that you need to go, you can do so voluntarily. If you feel you need to be in hospital, speak to your GP who will be able to make the necessary arrangements.

What happens to my baby?

Your baby won't be taken away from you!

Doctors generally prefer to keep a mother and baby together, and there are dedicated mother and baby units throughout the UK. Your baby can stay with you. However, partners can feel slightly uneasy about this, so if you're going in voluntarily, be sure to discuss it with your partner.

Some mums prefer not to bring their baby into a hospital environment, in which case it falls to the partner or the doctors to arrange suitable care. This can be care in a nursery while your partner goes to work, though there are other options that you can discuss with your midwife or health visitor.

If your mum and dad know you're going into hospital, you might find they're more than willing to look after your baby for free!

Can I be forced to go?

Yes, you can, but only under very specific circumstances. If the doctors consider you, your baby or your relationships to be in danger, they can force you to go to hospital for up to 28 days under the Mental Health Act Section 2 for assessment and treatment.

If you are taken into hospital under these circumstances, you have the right to appeal against the decision for 14 days after you've been admitted. Under section, you cannot leave the hospital without permission from a doctor, so if you feel you can, it's best to volunteer.

What's it like?

It's not home, but it's a far cry from the sanitoria of the past. Speaking from experience, my wife had a room to herself, kitchen facilities and good fresh food.

Outside of a mother and baby unit, the patients in the ward can be in there for a number of reasons, and from experience, most are actually quite pleasant people. One woman said to me and my wife that they all know they're ill, and that's why they're there.

In both places my wife stayed, the consultant did a round on a weekly basis, and obviously nurses are available for 24 hours.

Visiting hours are dependent on the ward, but are generally evenings so doctors and nurses can concentrate on treating patients during the day.

What happens in hospital?

You're not locked up in a padded cell! What follows is personal experience and not necessarily what happens in every case.

On admission, the ward sister will arrange for the doctor to visit you for an interview. He'll discuss your condition and your experiences, and you'll be shown your room. Drug treatment can start then - depending on your time of arrival and the drug the doctor considers best, you'll be given treatment on arrival or at bed time.

The following day, you'll see a nurse - often you'll have a dedicated nurse. Their job is to ensure you take your medication and to talk to you about your condition, any problems you might have, or just generally.

This cycle continues, and you'll be assessed routinely during the consultant's ward rounds. As you improve, if you're under section, the doctor can lift it, and then, if you're in voluntarily, you can be discharged or granted extended leave.