Learning about Postpartum Psychosis - The Use of Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)


  • Alyssa Georgescu Student at McMaster


What is Postpartum Psychosis?

Postpartum psychosis is a psychiatric condition which is rapidly onset. Symptoms include delusions, mood swings, disorganized behaviour. Psychosis threatens the life of the mother and the newborn(s) (Babu & Chandra, 2013).

What is Electroconvulsive Therapy? Is it safe?

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is a medical treatment which involves a short electrical stimulation to the brain while the patient is under anesthesia. (American Psychiatric Association, 2019). A study found that after 3 of 6 treatments all women had a positive response using ECT. The study also concluded that not only is ECT beneficial to mothers experiencing postpartum psychosis, but also that the use of ECT is safe (Forray & Ostroff, 2007).

Postpartum Critical Period for ECT

It is beneficial to receive ECT within the first 6 months after delivery of the newborn. 87% of women who have completed ECT inside of the post partum period saw higher response rates than completing ECT outside of the period (73.5%). It was also discovered that 96% of women experiencing extreme symptoms of postpartum psychosis, drastically responded and benefitted to the use of ECT (Rundgren et al., 2018).

Is pharmaceutical Therapy not working?

Other methods such as psychotropic medications have many side effects, Including the short- and long-term effects of the medication on the infants who are breast-fed. Unlike psychotropics, electroconvulsive therapy does not cause any breast-feeding side effects. 10 of 15 women in the study continued to breast feed while receiving ECT, no infants showed any adverse reactions. There was also no difference in duration of hospitalization or severity of psychopathy compared to women who did not receive ECT (Babu &Chandra, 2013).




American Psychiatric Association. (2019, July). What is electroconvulsive therapy

(ECT)? Psychiatry.org - What is Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)? Retrieved June 8, 2022, from https://www.psychiatry.org/patientsfamilies/ect

Babu, G. N., Thippeswamy, H., & Chandra, P. S. (2013). Use of electroconvulsive

therapy (ECT) in postpartum psychosis—a naturalistic prospective study. Archives of Women's Mental Health, 16(3), 247–251. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00737-013-0342-2

Forray, A., & Ostroff, R. B. (2007). The use of electroconvulsive therapy in postpartum

affective disorders. The Journal of ECT, 23(3), 188–193. https://doi.org/10.1097/yct.0b013e318074e4b1

Rundgren, S., Brus, O., Båve, U., Landén, M., Lundberg, J., Nordanskog, P., &

Nordenskjöld, A. (2018). Improvement of postpartum depression and psychosis after electroconvulsive therapy: A population-based study with a matched comparison group. Journal of Affective Disorders, 235, 258–264. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2018.04.043