Sarah Short Circuit

Heal, Nourish, Nurture

Category: Enlighten (page 2 of 4)

Prenatal stress

A mother’s emotional state while pregnant has long lasting effects with cultural, environmental and biological differences. Foetal programming has different sensitive periods and our environment starts in the womb. Sensitive early mothering helps attachment, and can counteract some of what happens in the womb.

It is not just toxic stress that is associated with changes in development and behaviour. Prenatal stress can be pregnancy specific anxiety, maternal mental health and daily hassles. The associated risks in children are that they are more likely to have anxiety and depression, increased aggression, impaired cognitive development, sleep problems, temperament issues. There are risks of physical changes including low birth weight, preterm delivery, decreased telomere length (impacts longevity), decreased immune function and altered microbiome. Some are more affected than others due to the gene-environment interactions, for example, the more depressed, more methylation, more epigenetic changes. 

Just think of the impact globally stress may be having on the next generations. For more info check out

Effects of prenatal anxiety, depression and stress on the child: global implications – Professor Vivette Glover, International Marce Society Conference 2016.

Factors influencing decision making

1 in 5 risk of postpartum psychosis and half are considering pregnancy plans. Research is revealing the large variety of factors influencing decision making for women with bipolar disorder including social support, family history, stigma and fear.

Understanding the importance of stigma, contextual factors such as time pressures and social support from their partner and family, local service provision, fear including the fear of becoming ill and fear of social services, and the centrality of motherhood.

This study also enabled the inclusion of views of women who decided against having a child because of bipolar disorder (26%).

This highlights the problems of getting reliable information and advice to women with bipolar disorder and what women want from services as well as the need for more training for health professionals.

Read the full study here (open access).

Factors influencing women with bipolar disorder when making decisions about pregnancy and childbirth: a qualitative study – Clare Dolman, International Marcè Society Conference 2016.

At risk

131,000 women a year with postpartum psychosis, of which it’s suspected they do not get top care if getting any care at all, with a higher prevalence and worse care in developing countries.
Launch of the Global Alliance for Maternal Mental Health – Dr Alain Gregoire, International Marce Society Conference 2016.

Severe Postpartum Mood Disorders – Who’s Really at High Risk? – Professor Ian Jones, International Marcè Society Conference 2016.

It is important to know more about the risk for postpartum psychosis as an opportunity for intervention and prevention to avoid devastating outcomes. Postpartum psychosis has a rapid onset with the vast majority of cases in the first 3 days to 1 week.

The risk for developing postpartum psychosis is not evenly spread across the perinatal spectrum. Certain groups of women are at a higher risk including  bipolar disorder and those who have previously experienced postpartum psychosis.

The risk for postpartum psychosis is about 50% if the mother has experienced a previous episode. The recurrence rate range is 14-57%, the differences in rates accounted by the differences in methodologies, differences in managements and the differences in the classification of bipolar disorder.

The risk profile for postpartum psychosis is different to bipolar disorder warranting different approaches for treatment. The lifetime pattern of postpartum psychosis has a strong association with bipolar I. A problem with diagnosis of postpartum psychosis occurs as 10% of the population is on the bipolar spectrum, along with with over-diagnosis, perceptions of psychiatrists, pressure from patients to give a label. All this matters because of the overburden of services, worry women unnecessary, combining bipolar disorder with postpartum psychosis underestimates the risk and can include the wrong women in research studies.

Women who have no perinatal episode have a 32% risk of postpartum psychosis. Further variables do not add to the predictive value of having an episode in a first pregnancy. There is a vulnerability of sleep loss in experiencing a manic episode.

There is research into the genetic markers of postpartum psychosis however this is dependent on sample size. Professor Ian Jones is seeking DNA samples from women who have experienced postpartum psychosis.


Di Florio et al. 2013. Perinatal episodes across the mood disorder spectrum.

Langan Martin et al. 2016. Admission to psychiatric hospital in the early and late postpartum periods: Scottish national linkage study.

Kendell et al. 1987. Epidemiology of puerperal psychoses.

Robertson et al. 2005.  Risk of puerperal and non-puerperal recurrence of illness following bipolar affective puerperal (post-partum) psychosis.

Bergink et al. 2012. Prevention of postpartum psychosis and mania in women at high risk.

Katie Lewis et al. 2016. Is sleep disruption a trigger for postpartum psychosis?

Jones & Craddock 2007. Searching for the puerperal trigger: molecular genetic studies of bipolar affective puerperal psychosis.

Bergink et al 2013. Immune system dysregulation in first-onset postpartum psychosis.



Marce Conference books

I indulged at the International Marcè Society Conference for Perinatal Mental Health in getting a few books!

📗Eyes Without Sparkle by Elaine Hanzak – the first book I read about a lived experience of postpartum psychosis.

📘Another Twinkle In The Eye. Contemplating another pregnancy after perinatal mental illness by Elaine Hanzak – haven’t been able to read this yet despite borrowing a few times from the library. May bring me closer to making peace with my decision.

📙 Beyond The Baby Blues by Catherine Knox, Benison O’Reilly & Seana Smith – a must have after hearing Dr Vijay Roach speak at the Gidget Foundation breakfast and chatting with Catherine personally.

📗A Mother’s Climb Out of Darkness. A Story about Overcoming Postpartum Psychosis by Jennifer Hentz Moyer – Jennifer is pioneer spokeswoman for education and support for postpartum psychosis and shares her lived experience in this book. This can be a tricky book to find.

📘The Polyvagal Theory. Neurophysiological Foundations of Emotions Attachment Communication Self-Regulation by Stephen W. Porges – been on my wish list since meeting Holly Bridges at the MINDD forum.

📙Scared Sick. The role of childhood trauma in adult disease by Robin Karr-Morse with Meredith S. Wiley – how our innate fight-or-flight system can unexpectedly become an agent of chronic illness if overworked in the early stages of life. This intrigued me with knowing the SD Protocol.

If you can’t find me you may find me curled up with a book…


Want to be part of the largest ever international study of PND and postpartum psychosis? I know I do (especially as I am a researcher!)

The Queensland Brain Institute and Postpartum Depression and Action Towards Causes and Treatment (PACT) have introduced a free app to launch the largest ever international study of postnatal depression (PND) and postnatal psychosis. Available on iPhone and iPads (and desktop), the app aims to help researchers understand why some women get PND or postnatal psychosis and others don’t. The results will then assist in developing more effective treatments and help new mums struggling with PND or postnatal psychosis.

The Australian arm of the PPD ACT study is designed to collect more detailed information about health and lifestyle as part of our “Genetics of Risk and Response to Treatment of Depression” study.

Mothers must be over 18 to participate and have struggled with either PND or postnatal psychosis at some stage in their life. Those currently being treated and those who were affected years ago all qualify to take part in the study.

Visit to find out more and join in!

Not my baby

It looked just like her baby. And yet the mother became convinced her daughter had been replaced.

Source: ‘Not my baby’: Delusion led to fatal throat slitting by mother

I recall hearing about this scenario last year in the media and I instantly thought that mental health was a huge part of the story. Reading this article fired me up to hear of an Australian mum receiving anti-depressants to then spiral into postpartum psychosis, just like I did however without the devastating outcome. It is a reminder that many only know to look out for symptoms of postpartum depression.

The father sought out anti-depressants the next day, gave her some and found her much happier.

SMH did a great job conveying the facts in this article. We need to educate the medical professionals as well as the community about postpartum psychosis to prevent these cases from happening in our community.

This article also has given me the opportunity to talk a bit with my parents about their recollections with my experience, interesting yet tough conversations.


Losing my mind

I couldn’t believe child birth could trigger such a devastating mental illness. All anyone ever talks about is post-natal depression. I literally couldn’t believe this strange condition I’d never heard of could happen to ME!

Source: ABC OPEN: Losing my mind || From Project: Speak Your Mind

October 2014, National Mental Health Week and I was reading these words with tears streaming down my face. It was the first time I had come across postpartum psychosis in mainstream. Not on a mummy blog. Not somewhere on the internet that I had to go digging for. Mainstream Australian Media.

Another mother who was like me, who had not know about this complication of pregnancy and birth, did not even know it existed until it happened to herself.

What happened to me is extremely rare. About one or two women in every 1,000 births suffer post-natal psychosis. I didn’t know it existed until it happened to me. I didn’t know women with a history of mental illness were at risk. I didn’t know birth could trigger mental illness.

I had not heard of postpartum psychosis before it happened to me. Even though I have studied psychology and neuroscience at uni. Even with reading everything I could get my hands on about pregnancy and birth. Even with attending two antenatal classes, one in the hospital and one transition to parenthood course. Never heard of it!

Keryn’s open post on Speak Your Mind inspired me to create a platform to share my story of what I have experienced with postpartum psychosis and what resources I find that can support other mothers going through a similar journey.

October 2016, National Mental Health Week.  I’ve just made a mental health promise to myself as part of World Mental Health Day. You can make your own promise here and be part of a world-wide movement to improve mental wellbeing in our community. #WMHD2015


I am ready to share more of my story…

Down to Earth

I finally got my very own copy of Down to Earth by Rhonda Hetzel. This has been my go to guide for everything simple living from housework to life stages to savings to finding your rhythm. I am so grateful for the numerous times I have borrowed this book from the library. This week I was looking forward to meeting Rhonda this week on The Simple Home book tour! She has been such an inspiration in the changes I have made in my life.


Rhonda and I at the Library Talk

On Thursday I attended Rhonda’s library book talk at Kogarah Library talking about all things simple living. Rhonda chatted with us how she went from overwhelmed, stressed and burnt out to taking control of life, being self reliant, happy and content in her simple home. Rhonda stopped work and had to replace the income and reduce the cost of living so she started with her food budget. From trying different recipes, new ways of shopping, ways of storing food and not wanting to waste food, Rhonda made her food from scratch and found that it was easier, cheaper, tasted better and was fresher than store bought food. From her food Rhonda moved to reducing the chemicals that she was brining in her home. Rhonda was all about taking the good parts of the old ways and bringing them into the now, simple living with a focus on her home. We all have a busy life and we can pick and choose different possibilities of simple living, and once you are organised usually things are easy on a day to day level.

So many gems of wisdom

  • There are a wide range of things possible to a simple home
  • Being organised is important
  • Buying things we keep, like clothes, are assets and we should look after them
  • Money is a tool
  • Choose local over organic
  • Make your own laundry liquid
  • Many don’t look after themselves, be kind to you
  • Craft used to be part of housework

Check Down to Earth out in your local library or get a copy from Biome. You can also listen to Rhonda here at The Slow Home Podcast.

A big thank you to Rhonda for sharing her know-how and her new book The Simple Home with us. It was a pleasure to meet you and thank you for signing my copy of my book Down to Earth.




Who ya gonna call?

“For women to remain empowered as they take on the joys and challenges of motherhood ideologies of mothering and femininity must be moderated. They serve to isolate and undermine women as they set unreasonable expectations of women and make fathers contribution an optional extra.”

Recovery from Postnatal Depression: Endurance, sedition and sorting the family baggage – Dr Sue Cowie, International Marcè Society Conference 2016.

Women who experience postpartum depression are greater risk to experience this again in a second pregnancy. Dr Cowie has studied how taking in the context of women’s lives and womens’ experiences and expectations and how they prepare for second birth. Four general circumstances appeared to make motherhood more difficult: traumatic or difficult birth, women’s physical health problems, child’s health and feeding problems and lack of support. Second time experience recovery themes included endurance test e.g. ‘such is life;, it just slowly got better ‘finding the baby more enjoyable’, other to mother experiences in knowing what a child needs, and seditious talk with friends to help feel normal when talking about the depression and postnatal stressors of the new baby. Having a baby the second time after experiencing postpartum depression resulted in the mother having a less idealised view of the baby, more experienced and knowledgeable, and a transformational experience .

Recovering from postpartum mood disorders? Who ya gonna call? We need to start talking more about the challenges of motherhood and talk more about the context of how things get better.


In Praise of Slowness

“Rescuing the next generation from the cult of speed means reinventing our whole philosophy of childhood”.

“In Praise of Slowness: How a Worldwide Movement is Challenging the Cult of Speed” by Carl Honoré. A compelling read that I can relate to in so many ways. How we are controlled by time and a fast paced society. From the slow food movement, meditation, health care, parenting, leisure time, work and schooling, slowing down can be positively beneficial.

“Perhaps the greatest challenge of the Slow movement will be to fix our neurotic relationship with time itself”.

Brooke at Slow your Home has interviewed Carl on her podcast The Slow Home Carl Honoré Talks Technology, Good Slow and Getting to Know Your Butcher – SHP009 . Its well worth the listen.

Here is Carl’s TED talk: In Praise of Slowness.

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