Open Access Open Badges Research article

The process of recovery in women who experienced psychosis following childbirth

Laura McGrath1, Sarah Peters1, Angelika Wieck2 and Anja Wittkowski12*

Author Affiliations

1 School of Psychological Sciences, the University of Manchester, 2nd Floor Zochonis Building, Brunswick Street, Manchester M13 9PL, UK

2 Manchester Mental Health and Social Care Trust, Wythenshawe Hospital, Manchester, UK

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BMC Psychiatry 2013, 13:341  doi:10.1186/1471-244X-13-341

Published: 20 December 2013



Psychosis following childbirth affects 1–2 mothers per 1000 deliveries. Onset is rapid and functioning is severely affected. Although prognosis in terms of symptom remission is generally good, long-term disability can persist. The study’s aim was to develop a theoretical understanding of recovery from psychosis following childbirth.


Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 12 women with experience of psychosis following childbirth. Interview transcripts were analysed using grounded theory methodology.


A theory of four superordinate themes was developed from the data, including: (i) the process of recovery; (ii) evolving an understanding; (iii) strategies for recovery; and (iv) sociocultural context. The process of recovery and women’s understanding of their experience were conceptualised as parallel processes, which informed one another. Women found that a diagnosis facilitated their use of particular strategies.


This study highlighted a complex and ongoing process of recovery from psychosis following childbirth. Sensitivity to a woman’s position in the process of recovery has the potential to facilitate professionals in assessing readiness for different interventions which will be likely to result in women feeling more understood, accepted and supported.

Puerperal psychosis; Postpartum psychosis; Postnatal psychosis; Recovery; Grounded theory; Qualitative; United Kingdom