Schizophrenia in the postnatal period

Schizophrenia is a severe mental illness that is associated with much stigma and misinformation. While some people with schizophrenia experience only one or a few episodes, for others it may remain a ongoing health condition. People with schizophrenia often also experience depression and/or anxiety.

How common is schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is experienced by 1 in 100 people in the Australian population.

What causes schizophrenia?

There is no known single cause of schizophrenia but we do know about factors that make it more likely.

  • Genetic factors — the risk increases to 10 in 100 if you have a parent with schizophrenia
  • Biochemical factors — an imbalance of certain biochemical substances in the brain may be involved in development of schizophrenia
  • Stress — stressful events often precede the onset of schizophrenia
  • Alcohol and other drugs — harmful alcohol and drug use may trigger symptoms in people who are vulnerable to developing schizophrenia

What are the signs and symptoms?

The main symptoms of schizophrenia are:

  • Delusions — false beliefs of persecution, guilt or grandeur, or being under outside control
  • Hallucinations — these most commonly involve hearing voices
  • Thought disorder — speech may be difficult to follow with no logical connection

Other symptoms of schizophrenia include:

  • Lack of drive
  • Thinking difficulties
  • Blunted expression of emotions
  • Social withdrawal
  • Lack of insight

Support after having a baby

Women with schizophrenia may find the early postnatal period distressing and have difficulty bonding with the baby. As well as seeing your doctor regularly, it is helpful to have support from your partner and/or family or from a nanny. Having this type of support overnight will mean that you can sleep. This is important as lack of sleep can trigger a relapse.

Your doctor or maternal child health nurse may also suggest that you attend a special group to help you with parenting skills.

Download our Schizophrenia Fact Sheet