Praise for Eastenders storyline on postpartum psychosis

Soap will help other women realise they are not alone writes CPFT clinical director Dr Manaan Kar Ray

Praise for Eastenders storyline on postpartum psychosis
18 January 2016

CPFT clinical director Dr Manaan Kar Ray writes about how Eastenders storyline involving Stacey could help other women

Think what you like about TV soap operas, but amid the family feuds, illicit romances and bust-ups in the pub they sometimes hit upon storylines which raise awareness of issues which otherwise just wouldn’t get talked about.

Eastenders is doing that right now with the character of Stacey and her diagnosis of postpartum psychosis.

I’m not an Eastenders fan but I’m told it’s been sensitively handled and well acted. Most of all it will make other women who are also going through the same experience, and their families, realise they are not alone.

Postpartum psychosis is a condition that is thought to affect one in every thousand women soon after they give birth, two to 14 days after delivery. It is unusually acute in its presentation and rapidly reaches a climax of severity.

Patients present with extreme excitement accompanied often with apparent confusion or perplexity. Mood swings are rapid and marked and almost every psychotic symptom may be seen. The two main symptoms are hallucinations – seeing or hearing things that aren’t there – and delusions, rigid beliefs that do not yield to logic or rationality. Feeling suspicious of other’s intent is fairly common.

Postpartum psychosis is a serious mental illness and should be treated as a medical emergency. If not, the condition can rapidly deteriorate and the risk of serious harm to the mother and baby escalates.

Research has shown that postpartum psychosis can affect women who have experienced the condition before, have a mental health condition, such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia or have a relative who has experienced psychosis.

And this is where a woman’s partner, family or friends are so important as she may not realise she is ill. Anyone who believes a new mum has developed the condition should contact their GP immediately. If they believe the mother or her child could be in harm’s way, they should call an ambulance.

Post partum psychosis is a psychiatric emergency but it is important to note that the right support, at the right time, in the right setting, results in recovery. The setting is particularly important in this case. If possible treatment should be at home where the mother can maintain her roles and continue to build her relationship with the newborn. If hospital admission is warranted then there are great advantages in conjoint mother and baby admission.

On a wider point post natal depression is more common, affecting one in 10 new mothers. Yet far too often, new mothers are left to suffer in silence because they are afraid to tell people about the way they feel, for fear of being judged. And it is not just mothers that can get post natal depression, 1 in 25 fathers are also affected.

The sooner it is diagnosed, the sooner something can be done about it, so the first step is to talk to your health visitor or GP. Remember that post natal depression isn’t anyone’s fault. Post natal depression is an illness that can affect even the strongest of people.

Eastenders isn’t real, but the condition it has highlighted very much is.

This column first appeared in the Cambridge News on Monday, 18 January 2016


For more information please contact:

Andy Burrows
Communications Manager
E andy.burrows@cpft.nhs.uk
T 01223 726767


Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust
Elizabeth House, Fulbourn Hospital
Cambridge, CB21 5EF

T 01223 219400 (open 8:30am to 5pm)
F 01480 398501

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