Have you heard the news about mothers killing their own newborn babies?  You’re probably wondering and asking yourself why and how can a mother do such thing to a helpless baby.   

 

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Postpartum Psychosis Is The Culprit

Some mothers who hurt or, worse, kill their own babies, cannot be sentenced guilty by the court because they are said to not being themselves when they committed the crime.  Most of them are found to be suffering from postpartum psychosis.

Dr. Doris Chou, MD, and co-authors recognized that “mental health is a significant contributor to global burden of disease and the consequences of perinatal psychiatric morbidity can be substantial.”

 

What Is Postpartum Psychosis?

Postpartum psychosis is a mental disorder which begins suddenly in the first two weeks post-childbirth.

Emma Robertson, PhD, and co-authors stated that “postpartum psychosis is the most severe and uncommon form of postnatal affective illness, with rates of 1 – 2 episodes per 1000 deliveries.” Said experts also noted that “The clinical onset is rapid, with symptoms presenting as early as the first 48 to 72 hours postpartum, and the majority of episodes developing within the first 2 weeks after delivery. The presenting symptoms are typically depressed or elated mood (which can fluctuate rapidly), disorganized behaviour, mood lability, and delusions and hallucinations. Follow-up studies have shown that the majority of women with puerperal psychosis meet criteria for bipolar disorder.”

Thousands of women are affected by this psychiatric emergency each year, and symptoms can rapidly change and vary.  

  •    racing thoughts
  •    depression
  •    severe confusion
  •    hallucinations
  •    paranoia
  •    delusions
  •    mood swings
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Though postpartum psychosis is less common, occurring only once in every 1000 women, it can happen to any woman who just gave birth and may even hit a woman who has not been ill before or diagnosed with any psychiatric disorder.   

 

Why Does It Transpire?

Genetic factors can play an important role. Having a relative who has a history gives a high probability that you can experience it, too.  

Hormonal change may also be one cause of postpartum psychosis. The abrupt changes in hormone levels after giving birth contribute highly to a mother’s vulnerability to a depressive mood.  

Still, some research is being done, and it can never be directly pointed out to be the mother or the father’s fault.   It’s not about having marital problems, stress, or having an unplanned pregnancy.

 

Who Are Possible to Have Postpartum Psychosis?

It’s quite difficult to tell who’s going to have it and who’s not as there can be no warning signs.  

 

For women with a history of psychosis, they are already considered high risk, like those women diagnosed with bipolar disorder or schizoaffective disorder.  

Some may have a family member, a mother or a sister, who has experienced postpartum psychosis. They are also at a higher risk.  

 

How Can It Be Prevented?

Dr. Veerle Bergink, MD, PhD, and co-authors said that “little is known, however, about what interventions are most effective.” Nonetheless, if you are considered high risk, it’s imperative to discuss the matter with a psychiatrist to prevent the inevitable from happening.  

Informing your doctor of your history is necessary so that you will get the care you need.    

Together, families and attending doctors can arrange beforehand the plan of care the mother and the baby may need after delivery. They can also provide the partner with a heads-up on the triggering factors that may occur and how to avoid them.  

  •    Reducing stress
  •    Having a healthy sleep and rest
  •    Preparing the husband and other family members to assist the mother in taking care of the baby after childbirth, especially at night
  •    Mental wellbeing should be monitored closely after discharge from the hospital.  A visiting nurse should come to check on the mother on a regular basis a few weeks after birth.  
  •    If you think you are starting to become unwell, get treatment as soon as possible before the symptoms worsen.   Remember that signs heighten rapidly.
  •    Coming off or continuing medications should be monitored closely by the psychiatrist.   

 

What Can The Husband Do?

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It is frustrating and distressing for the husband to look after and care for both the mother and the baby.   The husband can seek support groups and talk to a psychiatrist as well for him to have mental stability so he can prepare himself for the possible outcomes.

  •    Stay calm and supportive.
  •    Listen to your partner.
  •    Help as much as possible in household chores and baby care, especially during nighttime to allow the mother to get some sleep.
  •    Look for temporary help around the house especially when you have to attend to something important, work, etc.
  •    Have a cozy, calm, and quiet home.

 

Parenting and keeping the baby safe is the role of both mother and father.  Postpartum psychosis is a parenting issue that should be handled responsibly by both partners until the mother gets back on her feet.