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More than 600 Australian women suffer from pregnancy-related psychosis each year, but most states don’t have enough resources to treat the condition, according to an ABC investigation.
Post-partum psychosis is the most extreme form of post-natal depression, and yet very few beds are available for women at treatment centers. NSW, Tasmania and the Northern Territory were the worst equipped with no dedicate public hospital beds for helping new mothers with the condition. The investigation also found that care centers often had long wait periods for treatment.
The condition generally develops during pregnancy or in the months following birth. Women with the condition often need to be hospitalized and receive special care that allows them to bring the baby into the hospital to bond with. Scientists believes the condition is caused by genetic predisposition, underlying conditions, hormone changes, sleep cycle interruptions and inflammation.
"[The psychosis] may take a variety of forms; she will often have hallucinations, hearing voices and have false ideas," Professor Philip Boyce of Sydney’s Westmead Hospital said. "One of the things we do know is that if these women have very strong false beliefs about the baby, they may actually do harm to the baby and that is a terrifying thing for them."
Boyce noted that women are often afraid to be treated for post-partum psychosis, since they’re afraid they’ll lose their child. He described the condition as a “hidden experience”, despite it being a relatively easy thing to treat given the right circumstances. Dr. Nicole Highet, the executive director of the Centre of Perinatal Excellence in Victoria, seconded Boyce’s opinion and noted that there is a stigma surrounding perinatal health.
“People have very high expectations that having a baby is going to be a wonderful experience,” Highet said. “People fear they will be judged against that.”
Boyce has called for four to six mother and baby units to be scattered across the state with links to motherhood services.
Source: ABC News
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