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Kent woman reveals postpartum psychosis trauma

Stacey Branning
Image caption EastEnders character Stacey Branning is shown to suffer from postpartum psychosis

A form of psychosis affecting new mothers has received recent attention following its use in an EastEnders storyline. Postpartum psychosis affects one in every 1,000 mothers and, as one mother from Kent has described, its effects can be terrifying.

Quite soon after the birth of her child, Tracey started to become ill.

"I began to see my baby's face on my husband and passersby in the street - it still didn't make me realise I was unwell," she said.

Tracey was suffering from postpartum psychosis.

It is a serious condition which, in rare cases, can lead to the mother hurting herself or her child.

Its effects have recently been highlighted in an EastEnders storyline, with character Stacey Branning being shown dealing with the illness.

Image caption Tracey said she began to hallucinate following the birth of her child

Tracey said: "When I was in the hospital after having my baby I really struggled to bond, I really struggled to breastfeed so when I was in the hospital I didn't get much sleep.

"I felt quite unsettled and when I went home I continued to struggle... I became detached from my baby."

It was then the hallucinations started and her family began to worry.

"I developed a lot of untrue beliefs about our financial status - I believed we had a lot more money than we did," she said.

"I was busy planning holidays, booking things and buying things online. Sometimes I would sit up all night and do that when my husband was asleep.

"Because I didn't realise I was unwell I was very argumentative with my husband and with other family and friends whenever they challenged my beliefs."

Tracey was visited by a team of mental health professionals to decide if she needed to be sectioned.

It was agreed she could be treated at home, however, she was prescribed strong anti-psychotic medication and could not be left alone with her baby.


Postpartum psychosis

Image copyright Science Photo Library

Postpartum psychosis is a severe mental illness that can affect a woman after she gives birth.

It causes her to have hallucinations and delusional thinking (symptoms of psychosis).

Postpartum psychosis is thought to affect around one in every 1,000 mothers.

It is sometimes referred to as puerperal psychosis or postnatal psychosis.

Source: NHS


Tracey said there needs to be more support for mothers suffering from the condition.

Alison Corbett, who is the mother and infant mental health service lead in Kent, said there was a shortage of units dealing specifically with the issue.

She said the nearest specialist units for mothers in Kent were in south east London.

"It's a national problem," she said. "We don't have any beds in Kent so we work very closely with our crisis teams.

"We also work with out of area mother and baby units... and do ward rounds there."

But for Tracey quick diagnosis and local support were crucial in helping her recover.

"Luckily my illness was picked up quickly so my baby was never at risk, but there have been a few tragic cases where the illness hasn't been identified or treated," she said.

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