Thirty-six years ago I had a postpartum psychosis. After delivering a premature baby and being sleep-deprived for almost two weeks, I was definitely out of touch with reality, and definitely had a postpartum psychosis. That diagnosis was correct. 

But when I became unstable a few months later, due to additional family stress, I was diagnosed as being bipolar and told that I needed to be on lithium for the rest of my life. It just didn’t make sense. I had been so happy and normal before this horrendous experience. And I had experienced no issues with my first child. The psychosis was with my second childbirth. 

I rejected the diagnosis and stopped seeing my psychiatrist. I’m not recommending this course of action to anyone. Luckily I gradually became stable and have remained stable for thirty-six years. I’ve written a novel “Back In Six Weeks” about my experience. The effort has led me to connect with a lot of other women who have experienced postpartum psychosis. I’ve connected with one other mom, who like me was diagnosed as bipolar and rejected that diagnosis. I’m curious if there are other moms out there with a similar experience. 

I’ve connected with one other mom, who like me was diagnosed as bipolar and rejected that diagnosis. I’m curious if there are other moms out there with a similar experience. I’m also concerned that various public websites equate postpartum psychosis with bipolar disorder. Research shows that the majority of women who experience a postpartum psychosis are bipolar, but that does not justify branding them all as bipolar. I’ve also heard from women who are bipolar and have been misdiagnosed as having a postpartum psychosis.

Postpartum psychosis is a medical emergency, and demands immediate treatment. There was an excellent research study in the Netherlands that addresses treatment options. “Treatment of Psychosis and Mania in the Postpartum Period.” This study provides for initial treatment to restore sleep. I believe that had I received this treatment, my psychosis would have resolved much sooner. It also recommends that women who are stable after nine months are weaned off of medication. 

With an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment, most moms can go on to completely recover. What’s your experience?

 

7 Comments on Has Your Postpartum Experience Been Misdiagnosed?

  1. Dyane Harwood
    October 11, 2015 at 10:05 am (3 years ago)

    As you know, Sharon, I had a postpartum bipolar diagnosis – which was accurate and had nothing to do with postpartum psychosis. I appreciate your pointing out there is much confusion between the two perinatal mood and anxiety disorders!. By having my book published by Post Hill Press about my bipolar, peripartum onset disorder I will educate others about the my specific diagnosis. Thank you for writing a great, informative post! I’m off to represent it! 🙂

    Reply
    • Sharon Gerdes
      October 18, 2015 at 1:06 pm (3 years ago)

      Dyane – I am looking forward to your book. Thanks for helping to educate others, as the differences between postpartum bipolar and postpartum psychosis are often misunderstood. An inaccurate diagnosis can confuse treatment and slow recovery.

      Reply
  2. Dyane Harwood
    October 11, 2015 at 10:06 am (3 years ago)

    I meant tweet, ha ha, not “represent”!

    Reply
  3. Dyane Harwood
    October 11, 2015 at 10:10 am (3 years ago)

    One more p.s. – although my 8-year-old blog URL says “proudlybipolar.wordpress” I now refer to myself as having bipolar. I prefer it over stating I’m bipolar because there is so much more to me than that word and I want my identity to reflect that. I guess this means I need to stop being lazy and change my blog URL to my book’s title “Birth of a New Brain” and practice what I preach! 😉

    Reply
    • Sharon Gerdes
      October 18, 2015 at 1:09 pm (3 years ago)

      Language does matter. Same applies to individuals who have diabetes or any other condition. Appreciate that comment.

      Reply
  4. Belle
    October 11, 2015 at 5:27 pm (3 years ago)

    I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder 2, and anxiety well before having children. My OBGYN did not understand my condition well & I struggled with depression throughout my pregnancies. After my last one, when I had twins, I became manic but because I was breast feeding, they only wanted to prescribe me drugs know to be safe, ie, antidepressants. I finally saw my psychiatrist who has been helping me find a combination that works for me. I blog about being a Christian, Bipolar Mom of Many at SuperMommyOfTwins.com.

    Reply
    • Sharon Gerdes
      October 18, 2015 at 1:08 pm (3 years ago)

      Belle – So happy that your psychiatrist found a combination of drugs that works for you. FYI – Postpartum Support International has a listserve for professional members that is a great resource for clinicians prescribing for pregnant and postpartum moms.

      Reply

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