Derby

Postpartum psychosis: 'I tried to kill my baby and husband'

Laura, Dan and Olivia-Mae Image copyright Channel 4
Image caption Laura said the condition made her aggressive towards her husband

A woman who suffered postpartum psychosis has been reliving the moment she tried to kill her newborn baby and husband by driving into a wall.

Laura, 31, was diagnosed with the condition 14 days after giving birth.

A sudden hallucination prompted her to drive at the wall at high speed before her husband Dan took control of the car and brought it to a halt, she said.

Laura, from Chesterfield, was later sectioned and given a course of anti-psychotic medication.

She shared her experience as part of a new Channel 4 documentary about mental health.

Aggressive behaviour

The office administrator said she had never experienced any mental health issues before being diagnosed with postpartum psychosis after the birth of daughter Olivia, last June.

"I started with hallucinations or bad dreams, I'm not sure what it was," she said.

"The first hallucination I had was Olivia being molested and thrown about. I had three of those dreams and it got to the point where I didn't want to go to bed.

"The lack of sleep got a lot worse and, because Dan was sleeping, I was resenting him because he could fall asleep.

"As time went on, I began to be aggressive towards him, which is not like me."

What is postpartum psychosis?

Image copyright PA Media
  • A rare but serious mental health illness that can affect any new mother
  • Symptoms can include hallucinations, delusions, manic and low moods, loss of inhibitions, restlessness, out-of-character behaviour and confusion
  • If left untreated the condition can get rapidly worse and lead to mothers harming the baby, themselves or others
  • Treatment options include being looked after at a mother and baby unit, medication, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and electroconvulsive therapy
  • The most severe symptoms usually last between two and 12 weeks but recovery can take several months

Source: NHS website

Laura said she tried to crash the car after being awake for 40 hours, during which she had been "manically cleaning".

While driving the three of them to a friend's house for lunch she suffered the hallucination, and accelerated towards the wall.

She said: "It felt like somebody was trying to take one of us and I just wanted us to be together, so logically the only way to be together was to end it."

After Dan, 29, managed to stop the car, he took their daughter out but Laura sped off again, intending to kill herself.

She said: "I thought 'If I die, then I can wait for them'. But then I heard a voice in my head saying 'What if it's not real? What if you just need sleep?'"

Image copyright Channel 4
Image caption Laura said she still feels guilty about what happened

Laura drove back, was taken to A&E and was subsequently sectioned.

She spent six weeks being treated by a perinatal team at a facility in Nottinghamshire and completed her course of drugs earlier this month.

"I still feel guilty, that's not gone away, even though it wasn't me, it could have ended so differently. I owe my life to the unit," Laura said.

"It's made me and Dan stronger, we've always been strong but it's made us unbreakable."

The couple want more children, despite Laura being at higher risk of having postpartum psychosis again.

If she becomes pregnant, Laura has been told she will be closely monitored by the perinatal mental health team for signs of illness.

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