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New mothers describe terrifying toll of postpartum psychosis

The condition affects two in every 1000 women in the first two weeks after birth.

By STV News

Published 06 Oct 2017.

New mothers have told of the terrifying hallucinations and delusions they can suffer with postpartum psychosis.

The condition is believed to affect one to two in every thousand women shortly after they give birth but there are only two specialist mother and baby units in Scotland, in Livingston and Glasgow.

It has led to calls for more specialist units to be opened outwith the central belt.

While around 40% of women will suffer some form of postpartum depression, according to the NHS, the psychosis diagnosis is treated as a medical emergency.

Symptoms include hallucinations, delusions, manic mood and paranoia.

Catherine Carver from Edinburgh suffered from postpartum psychosis shortly after the birth of her daughter Bea.

She recalled the moment she realised there may have been an issue.

"There was this big blue wall and I was watching these electric tigers bounce around," she says.

"There were roaring lions and the whole cast of Jumanji were cavorting on the wall.

"Part of me thought it was exhilarating to watch but another part of my mind started to question, could I really be seeing this? Or maybe the people around me were right and something was actually very wrong."

Ms Carver believed her daughter had been swapped by doctors - then became convinced they were trying to kidnap Bea.

While both facilities are in the central belt, the Scottish Government is refusing to expand the units across the country.

A spokesman said there are enough beds to cope with demand and it will only review an expansion if demand for access increased.

Ms Carver is a firm believer that she would not still be here today without the help of the unit and is campaigning for more units to be opened across the country so every woman has local access to help.

Kirsten Hay from Dundee was also affected by postpartum psychosis following the birth of her son, Oscar.

Ms Hay tried to abort the pregnancy as she felt she was unable to support a child but when the medical procedure failed she decided to continue and was left feeling wracked with guilt.

"Voices would tell me that I was a disgusting parent and that I was so horrible," Ms Hay said.

"They would tell me that my baby didn't want me and didn't want me to be his mother.

"I felt he genuinely hated me - that he didn't want me to love him or hold him."

In both cases, the baby unit helped treat the mothers' mental illnesses and taught them how to bond with their child.

A wide range of professionals work in the units, including psychiatrists, mental health nurses and social works to ensure both parent and child are well cared for.

Remote locations mean those outwith the central belt find themselves having to travel hundreds of miles from home to get help.

Ms Carver wants to see every district able to provide these services, saying: "I'd really love to raise awareness and get every person that goes through it between mothers, families, siblings or anyone that goes through it or are affected by it, the help and the support that they need."

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