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Developing a psychological model of recovery from postpartum psychosis (Hodgekins U20MEDSF)

Project Description

Postpartum psychosis (PP) is a severe but treatable form of mental illness that can happen to women after having a baby. PP affects approximately 2 mothers per 1000 deliveries and occurs very rapidly in the days or weeks following birthi. PP can occur without any history of mental health difficulties, but those with a previous diagnosis of psychosis are at increased risk. Research suggests that whilst the most severe symptoms of PP can remit within 2 to 12 weeks, functional recovery may take longerii. Mothers may experience depression, anxiety and reduced confidence. Approximately 50% of women will experience a further episode of PP if they have another baby.

Treatment for PP is mainly pharmacological and often involves an inpatient admission in a mother and baby unit. Mothers and babies are often separated in the acute phase of the illness but reunited as quickly as possible. Whilst there is emerging research on the experiences of women with PP and their families, no psychological model currently exists. Such a model would be important in informing treatment approaches, particularly in the later stages of recovery. A recent study highlights the important role of the baby in the recovery processiii. However, more research is needed to fully understand how mother-baby interactions might be affected by PP and also how such interactions might facilitate recovery.

Psychological interventions have been shown to be effective in improving recovery following first-episode psychosis not related to childbirthiv,v and may also be useful for women with PP. However, they are also likely to need to be adapted to include the mother-baby relationship and other postnatal and systemic factors. This project aims to use mixed methods to further understand the process of recovery following an episode of PP and to develop a psychological model of PP to inform intervention development.

For more information on the project’s supervisor, please visit:
Type of programme: PhD
Start date of project: October 2020.
Mode of study: full time.
Studentship length: 3 years. (3 year studentships have a (non-funded) 1 year ‘registration only’ period).
Location: UEA: MED
Entry requirements:
a) acceptable first degree in: Psychology
b) The standard minimum entry requirement is 2:1

Funding Notes

This PhD project is offered on a self-funding basis. It is open to applicants with funding or those applying to funding sources. Details of tuition fees can be found at View Website.

A bench fee may also payable on top of the tuition fee to cover specialist equipment or laboratory costs required for the research. The amount charged annually will vary considerably depending on the nature of the project and applicants should contact the primary supervisor for further information about the fee associated with the project.


i) VanderKruik, R., Barreix, M., Chou, D., Allen, T., Say, L., Cohen, L., et al. (2017). The global prevalence of postpartum psychosis: a systematic review. BMC Psychiatry, 17, 272.
ii) Blackmore, E. R., Rubinow, D. R., O’Connor, T. G., Liu, X., Tang, W., Craddock, N., & Jones, I. (2013). Reproductive outcomes and risk of subsequent illness in women diagnosed with postpartum psychosis. Bipolar Disorders, 15, 394-404.
iii) Plunkett, C., Peters, S., Wieck, A. & Wittkowski, A. (2017). A qualitative investigation in the role of the baby in recovery from post-partum psychosis. Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, 24, 1099-1108.
iv) Fowler, D., Hodgekins, J., Berry, C., Clarke, T., Palmier-Claus, J., … French, P. (2019). Social recovery therapy: a treatment manual. Psychosis, 11, 261-272.
v) Fowler, D., Hodgekins, J., French, P. (2019). Social Recovery Therapy in improving activity and social outcomes in early psychosis: current evidence and longer term outcomes. Schizophrenia Research, 203, 99-104.

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