File photo: The encephalitis was triggered by an ovarian cyst that made her immune system go into overdrive and attack her brain.

The moment a mother holds her newborn baby for the first time should be one she cherishes forever.

But Tina Tappenden, 23, physically recoiled when handed her daughter by a midwife and asked for her to be taken away.

Her reaction was the result of a life-threatening inflammation of the brain that robbed her of her memory for most of the pregnancy, erasing the bond she would normally have developed for her unborn child.

At one point she was sectioned and sent to a mental hospital because of the erratic behaviour her condition caused, and later she was placed in an induced coma after suffering seizures.

The encephalitis was triggered by an ovarian cyst that made her immune system go into overdrive and attack her brain.

Incredibly, the symptoms were alleviated by the birth because the arrival of baby Ava allowed her hormone levels to subside. She recalls feeling more like her old self within hours.

The cyst was removed in an operation seven months later and she is now almost back to normal, although she still has short-term memory problems.

Miss Tappenden said: "It’s hard not knowing what it felt like to be pregnant or give birth. But Ava is the most amazing daughter and I couldn’t imagine my life without her now. I feel lucky and privileged."

She gave birth to Ava seven weeks prematurely last February, but apart from feeling pain while in bed, she cannot recall any other part of the labour or Ava’s birth.

Miss Tappenden, who is single and lives with her parents in Canterbury, said: "I remember them putting Ava on my chest after I gave birth and I refused to hold her because it didn’t feel right. She didn’t feel like my baby. I’d been robbed of my pregnancy."

The care worker’s nightmare began in September 2015, a month after she found she was pregnant. She became increasingly forgetful, and started "obsessively" drinking water.

Then she had a psychotic episode where she ran onto a busy dual carriageway. She spent two-and-a-half weeks in a mental hospital.

Miss Tappenden continued to deteriorate and eventually a consultant neurologist said he suspected antibodies swirling around her body were causing encephalopathy.

She suffered a series of seizures and was put into a coma for eight days to stabilise her condition.

Three weeks later, Anti-NMDA Receptor Encephalitis was identified. She was treated with steroids and a plasma exchange to remove harmful substances from her blood.

The Encephalitis Society has released research showing that two-thirds of the public do not know what the condition is. Chief executive Dr Ava Easton said: "Tina’s story highlights how quickly a person can deteriorate without the right treatment and the devastating effect of the illness."