HAMDEN, Conn. (WTNH) — A Quinnipiac University graduate accused of killing her three young children in Massachusetts may have had postpartum depression or psychosis — both potentially dangerous conditions medical professionals warn should be taken seriously.
Although the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in eight new mothers will have some form of postpartum depression, it’s still unclear what causes it.
“That’s a complicated question that we don’t entirely understand,” Dr. Helen Bradshaw, an attending psychiatrist at Hartford HealthCare’s Institute of Living, said. “Probably a combination of environmental factors, genetic factors, social factors.”
Postpartum depression is a mood disorder that develops in the weeks after giving birth. It can impact eating, sleeping and cause a low mood, changing how the new mother perceives themselves.
Cognitive therapy and medications can help, but it can take weeks for drugs to start to work.
During postpartum psychosis, a woman becomes disconnected from reality.
“She may experience delusions, hallucinations,” Bradshaw said. “Some women have beliefs such as, you know, I need to do harm to my baby. My baby’s better off with me not around or not being alive. And these are really more frightening symptoms.”
The situation can be exasperated by sleep deprivation and feeling down, which makes it crucial for mothers to visit their doctors, who will know the right questions to ask in order to make a diagnosis.