What It's Like to Give Birth and Then 'Become Psychotic'

Catherine Carver describes her experience with postpartum psychosis
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 5, 2017 12:49 PM CDT
What It's Like to Give Birth and Then 'Become Psychotic'
Stock image.   (Getty Images / wundervisuals)

Catherine Carver has a medical degree. She's published a book on the immune system. She never struggled with mental illness before becoming a mother. So she's surprised, now that she's on the other side of the experience, that after giving birth to her daughter via emergency C-section, she found herself in the grips of postpartum psychosis. She describes her experience on Digg, recalling how she became convinced in the hospital that her baby had been swapped and that social workers were planning to take the little girl. Over the next few weeks at home, she tried to hide what was going on inside her from her husband and others around her, but ultimately a health visitor (Carver lives in the UK) realized what was going on five months after the birth and got Carver urgent help. She ended up in a mother and baby unit (MBU), which, she writes, are all too rare.

In the MBU, Carver had her baby with her. Compare that with a general adult psych ward, where mothers and babies are separated. Carver speaks to a woman who was diagnosed with postpartum psychosis and experienced both types of care and far preferred the MBU, calling it a "little haven" after the "awful" feeling of separation in the general ward. Yet there are just 125 MBU beds in the UK, and five in the US. Plus, not much is known about postpartum psychosis, with little research devoted to it. Yes, Carver writes, it's a rare childbirth complication, but considering the fact that in the UK, suicide (which postpartum psychosis can lead to) is the leading cause of maternal death in the first year postpartum, "it seems shocking that postpartum psychosis has such a struggle to attract funding." Carver's full article, which delves into what's known about the condition and what can help. (More Longform stories.)

Stories to sink your teeth into.
Get our roundup of longform stories every Saturday.
Sign up
Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.