Tragedies and Assumptions About Postpartum Psychosis

Yesterday we focused on the amazing story of Heather and her experience with and recovery from postpartum psychosis.

And then this:

Amother in San Antonio killed her two young children, ages 1 and 3, on Tuesday.


A mother in Edmonton Canada killed her two young children, aged 9 months and 2, on Tuesday as well.

Did these tragediesstem from postpartum psychosis? Everyone will assume so, of course, regardless of whether that's the case. Some media reports have already mentioned it.

That bugs me. Not every case of postpartum psychosis ends up in a tragedy, and not every situation where a mother kills her child is due to postpartum psychosis.

I guess we'll have to see how this unfolds …

About Katherine Stone

is the founder of Postpartum Progress. She has been named a WebMD Health Hero, one of the fiercest women in America by More magazine, and one of the top 20 Social Media Moms by Working Mother magazine. She is a survivor of postpartum OCD.

Tell Us What You Think


  1. from a local article in Edmonton . the mother "had shown signs of depression, but refused to get help" – not necessarily postpartum psychosis, but tragic when people don't want to get help for depression (for whatever reason).

  2. "Refused to get help" could be out of context and very misleading. My wife suffered from PPD with PPP and thought she was absolutely fine, even though she had a very strong family/friends support network with appropriate guidance. In fact, during a sort of manic phase of her illness, she had never felt better in her entire life. No person on earth would seek "treatment" when everything seems fine, much less when everything feels better than ever. You cannot blame the victim and assert that they take responsibility for their illnesses and just "accept help"/get over it/let someone fix them. Nobody wants to suffer. All human beings strive to move away from pain, no matter what. Treating these types of postpartum complications can be very, very complicated.

  3. Yes its safe to assume that people are going to say that PPP is the cause. I want to yell out that not every woman who suffers from this kills their children or even has entertained the thought. PPD and PPP dont always involve violence.

  4. I live relatively near the family in Edmonton and happen to work at a newspaper so I've been following that story since it happened. I am so disappointed to have not heard anything about the mother. Apparently she tried to commit suicide by jumping off a bridge onto a busy freeway below and is now in hospital with undisclosed injuries. I am sure the lack of news is for her protection. I would really like to hear if mental illness factored into this or not though. The parents were going through a nasty custody battle. I can see how that would play into it ("If I can't have the kids, then you can't either"). My heart goes out to the boys father. I am putting some money in the trust fund that's set up to pay for their funerals.
    Is it strange though that I don't have strong feelings of hatred for the mother? Suffering from PPD myself I oddly am somewhat sympathetic towards the mother – if only as a "I want to get involved and this is one more sample in my arsenal" kind of way.

  5. Teresa Twomey says:

    It will be interesting to see how it unfolds. Although I don't know if either of these is PPP, I worry that the speculations of "could it be PPP" in the press so early on may create more of a backlash against actual cases of PPP. And I could not agree more that not every case of PPP ends in tragedy. That is why I included MOSTLY stories of recovery w/o tragedy in my book (Understanding Postpartum Psychosis: A Temporary Madness). I think that "wanting to kill your kids" is the growing association in people's minds re: PPP. And that is so very misleading!

  6. I agree with Jeremy, really it's hard to know what is meant by "refused to get help" and definitely it could be misleading. The tendency is for everyone to want to be able to know why this happened and the easy answer is "oh, there was something wrong with her, she had postpartum psychosis/postpartum depression" (even if as pointed out here and in the next blog entry, such diagnoses are not at all indicative of any tendency to commit horrible acts like this, so the problem is that misinformation about these conditions gets perpetuated).
    At this point, the police have not even said that the mother definitively was involved (they haven't said anything). The husband has apparently said that his wife is under psychiatric assessment but even he knows very little.
    All I wanted to do was to share the latest information at the time, but if some feel that I'm contributing to the problem, I apologize (and FWIW, I'm a family physician in Edmonton and keenly aware to try to promote awareness and understanding of mental illness).

  7. guidemd,
    You are obviously doing a good thing, and I'm sorry if my post came accross as argumentative. I am trying to promote awareness and understanding as well, but my perspective comes from my experiece as a husband of a person who battled PPP.

  8. Katherine Stone/Post says:

    Exactly Teresa. The assumption has been, ever since Andrea Yates I think, that a mom who kills her kids has postpartum psychosis. I see that kind of speculation even when the kids are older. It just goes to show how little the public understands.

  9. Katherine Stone/Post says:

    Thanks for that guideMD. Your comments helped lead us to a great discussion, and that's a good thing.