Action on Postpartum Psychosis

Action on Postpartum Psychosis (APP) is the UK charity for women and families affected by postpartum psychosis. Each year, one to two in every thousand new mums will develop hallucinations, delusions, mania, depression and unusual behaviour within days of childbirth, often out of the blue. Postpartum psychosis (PP) is a severe and frightening postnatal illness and can have a devastating impact, not only on the woman affected, but also on their partner and wider family.

APP is a collaboration between women and families with personal experience, academic researchers and expert health professionals. We aim to reduce maternal deaths caused by PP, decrease isolation and improve recovery outcomes. APP provides peer support and specialist information. We raise awareness, challenge stigma, train health professionals, campaign for improved services, and conduct research to better understand PP.

How does your organisation contribute to preventing suicide and supporting those affected by it?

Suicide is the leading cause of death to mothers in the 12 months following birth. Prior to 2011 when our charity began, postpartum psychosis (PP) was responsible for 43% percent of postnatal suicides. As APP has grown, PP-related maternal deaths have dramatically decreased, thanks to increased awareness of PP, improved services and support – although overall maternal suicides have continued to increase. Early evidence suggests that, in the post-pandemic period, deaths due to PP are again on the increase. For each of these statistics, a newborn loses a mother and a family sustains an unimaginable loss, when the fact is, postpartum psychosis is a treatable illness and full recovery is possible. PP must be managed as a medical emergency for the safety of both mother and baby.

APP contributes to preventing suicide by raising awareness of PP amongst the general public; raising awareness amongst health professionals and antenatal educators; and campaigning for better services. Our media volunteers raise awareness by sharing their stories in local and national media, and through supporting creative projects such as films, plays and tv series to ensure portrayals of PP are accurate. We use our social media to share information on the signs and symptoms of PP, and how to get help. Through lived experience talks and workforce training we have reached 13,500 health professionals since 2014. 95% of health professionals say they would change their practice after attending our training days. We campaign for improved services, focusing especially on access to Mother and Baby Units. APP run an award-winning peer support and information service for women and families affected by PP.

APP supports families where a mother has died due to PP. The support we provide is individual to each family and includes providing information about PP, peer support and signposting to support and services.

What are your current priorities?

We are running a campaign to raise awareness of the need to provide information about postpartum psychosis (PP) in the antenatal period: You can see the campaign here.

We are planning a free webinar for all frontline professionals (GPs, midwives, health visitors, antenatal educators) to raise awareness of PP and essential knowledge for preventing maternal suicide. The seminar will be an annual event and is funded by one of our bereaved volunteers. Find out more here.

We are developing bereavement peer support to add to our peer support offering. We are training our first peer support volunteer to help us set up a support and signposting service. We are looking for additional training in bereavement support for the APP staff team, who are involved in an increased number of contacts from bereaved families.

What challenges are you currently facing?

Early evidence suggests that deaths due to postpartum psychosis (PP) are again on the increase in the post-pandemic period, following a decade of decreasing PP related deaths.