‘I was convinced my baby would die the next day’

Hannah in unit

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Hannah with her daughter Esther in a mother and baby unit

Imagine looking at your newborn baby and being convinced they are the son of God. You may think this recent plotline in EastEnders sounds far-fetched. But it’s actually a common symptom of post-partum psychosis, a condition that affects one in 500 mothers.

“It’s like being in a vivid nightmare only you don’t wake up,” says psychiatrist Dr Alain Gregoire, at the Winchester Mother and Baby Unit.

“You can go from being well to experiencing extreme thoughts and hallucinations very rapidly.”

The condition affects thousands of women in the UK each year. The severe episode of mental illness starts in the days or weeks after giving birth and affects a mother’s mood, thinking and behaviour. Symptoms include mania, depression, confusion, hallucinations and delusions.

Hannah, who gave birth to her daughter Esther in March 2015, says she didn’t realise she was ill at first.

“I had this extra boost of energy and I just assumed my hormones were making things easy for me. I was staying up until 12 or 1,” she says.

“Then Esther got sick and I started over-questioning and over-analysing everything.”

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Character Stacey Branning suffers from post-partum psychosis in an Eastenders storyline

Hannah, who is a Christian, found she began getting odd thoughts that had a religious context.

“At first I thought God had told me I was pregnant with twin girls. I thought this was very reasonable. Apparently when I later went into the specialist unit, I did numerous pregnancy tests as I was so convinced.”

Find out more

You can watch My Baby, Psychosis And Me on Tuesday 16 February at 22:45 on BBC One, or catch up afterwards on iPlayer.

Within weeks her delusions brought her to breaking point.

“I got it into my head that Esther would die the next day at midday but God would then bring her back to life. I told my husband Robert, who thought it was odd and didn’t know what to make of it.

“When midday approached I ended up in a foetal position screaming and asking people to help me. I was screaming so loudly the neighbours came running.”

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