What Do You Want To Know About Postpartum Psychosis?

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Recently I was surprised to receive a complaint about coverage of infanticide and postpartum psychosis here on Postpartum Progress.

The gist of the complaint was that we’re not giving enough support to moms who have had postpartum psychosis or those who have committed infanticide or suicide, or that Postpartum Progress somehow treats them differently or separately from those who’ve had PPD.  I hate to hear this, because of course we care about ALL mothers who have suffered or are struggling with ANY perinatal mood or anxiety disorder, including postpartum psychosis of course. Truly. So, I wanted to share some of the things we’ve written about the topic, and also to invite feedback from our readers.

Below is a list of some of the stories we’ve done about postpartum psychosis in case you’d like to read them/have access to them. If you haven’t been able to find them via the search function, I’m not surprised, because our search function totally sucks and I need to get a different one for this blog.

Please let us know, meantime, what specific topics or issues around postpartum psychosis or infanticide that you’d like us to address.

http://www.postpartumprogress.com/renewal-hope-after-tragedy-a-message-from-jennys-light

http://www.postpartumprogress.com/postpartum-psychosis-infanticide-2

http://www.postpartumprogress.com/bbc-focuses-on-postpartum-psychosis 

http://www.postpartumprogress.com/dying-at-the-hands-of-postpartum-depression-infanticide-in-the-media

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About Katherine Stone

is the founder & editor of Postpartum Progress. She was named one of the ten most influential mom bloggers of 2011, a WebMD Health Hero and one of the top 25 parent bloggers using social media for social good. She also writes the Fierce Blog, and a parenting column for Disney's Babble.com.

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  1. Hmmm…not sure if you’d be able to speak on this, but I know for myself, even though we want to have one more child, I’m terrified of doing so because I’m bipolar. I’ve read/heard varying discussions on the risks of developing postpartum psychosis, but it’s all over the place-I’ve had trouble finding something concrete in terms of stats, studies, helpful info, etc. Even my psychiatrist couldn’t give me any real answers other than to say, “Considering your mental health history, I wouldn’t risk having another child-it would mostly likely be dangerous to you and the baby.”

    Again not sure if you can address this, but I thought I’d mention it anyway.

  2. Personally, I do not need any information. I did all the research, or am doing any further research on what I went through for myself. Therefore I can write my memoir for myself. Based on my knowledge, not on what I “stole” from others. So for me it’s based on plagerism. But I know about the complaint and I think some people just don’t know how to talk a person who may have hurt their child because, in the end we are not trained professionals, so, I mean….. we are limited for words. A very small percentage harm their babies and that needs to be stressed to the general public and more are likely to commit suicide (or harming self) than infanticide or homicide of their other children. So letting other people know that would be nice, if you haven’t already. Because in all honesty there are a bunch of blogs about PPMDs, but very few are focused ONLY on PPP and the poster child for PPP is Andres Yates, and though I would be an advocate for Andrea Yates if I knew her personally, as she had an illness and was not treated properly by doctors and watched “like a hawk” as she should’ve been, I want the public to not think of Andrea Yates when they think of PPP because she is a minority in a minority illness….

  3. sarah freeman says:

    thanks again. I had it, only briefly before being treated, about 5 days, but the recovery is slow, and gentle, Its been almost three years, and I still feel like saying to my friends “Did you know?! I had PPP!” People really don’t seem to want to talk about it mostly. And I still want to wave my arms and say “OH my God!!!” A bit like an accident survivor.

  4. Katherine,

    I genuinely appreciate this post. While reading through the links you provided, I believe it is this one and the comments with it – http://www.postpartumprogress.com/postpartum-psychosis-infanticide-2 – Titled “What Ms. B. Monaghan Taught Me About Morality” that I remember reading some time ago that gave me some hope about your site initially.
    This is what I was hoping to see more of. In the comments below being made where someone stated “we are limited for words”; I believe says it all. The gap is wide and is not understood.

    I want to bridge this gap. I want to help educate the public, make them aware of of quickly and tragically PPD/PPP can occur. There are a variety of potential outcomes that don’t involve what I call “Happy Endings”. That doesn’t mean myself or these other women should cease to exist or never get the opportunity to become a “Warrior Mom”, have a voice.
    We all know in order to help erase the stigma we need to start talking about these things. Embrace those who feel so ashamed. I waited over 13 years for someone else to start talking who went through what I went through. I finally decided maybe they were waiting as well. I’ve already had some women reach out to me and tell me they were so excited when they found my site. I was so grateful. I remember that feeling of loneliness, yearning for someone who knew how it felt to experience the loss of a child due to Postpartum Psychosis.

    So thank you Katherine, I hope this is the beginning of the gap bridging.

    Natachia Barlow Ramsey; Surviving Postpartum Psychosis

  5. Teresa Twomey says:

    Hi Katherine, thanks for posting this — and for caring about ALL women with maternal mental health issues. I think it is easy to feel like whatever specific illness we have that it is “undercovered”. And, I think it is easy to forget or overlook that we activists are not being paid big bucks (or, in most cases, ANY bucks) to cover all of this – that what we do is because we care and that none of us, as individuals, can “do it all.” As I write this, it occurs to me that maybe you could have a drop down menu with each of the distinct manifestations of postpartum mood issues listed and with each linking to a list of posts that you have done on that particular one. Yes, I know, amid all of your speaking engagements, time needed to write – and, of course, time with your family, that is easier said than done… still, if/when you do “find time” it might be something that would be helpful.

    • I do have this in the drop down menu already, under Tools for Moms. http://www.postpartumprogress.com/find-moms-like-you In that listing there’s a special section for Postpartum Psychosis. Do you think that’s too confusing? Would it be better to list by illness in the drop downs?

      And yes, thanks for pointing out that we don’t get paid. Any bucks. But that’s cool because pretty much everyone who does this does it for the love of our fellow mamas. ;-)

  6. Collette Andree-Welch says:

    I have been reading your blog for a couple of months and I really appreciate you talking about postpartum psychosis. I suffered from severe pregnancy depression as well as postpartum depression, anxiety, OCD, and psychosis. I had three stays in a psychiatric facility, twice for trying to commit suicide and once for attempting to smother my daughter and countless other issues. My husband and I lived through almost two years of hell and he is a saint for sticking by my side. Our daughter is 2 1/2 now and I can’t have anymore children, my OCD and psychosis were very scary so together with my OBGYN and my psychiatrist we felt it was best not to have anymore children. There is definitely a stigma attached with postpartum depression but when you bring up psychosis as well I have noticed that people tend to shy away. My third stay in the hospital, the psychiatrist I saw there told me that there was no such thing as postpartum OCD or psychosis because she had never heard of it and then proceeded to tell me that I had been misdiagnosed. I have also been told that having a kid makes some women crazy and that I just need to learn to deal with it. I am in the process of writing a book about my experience, I want moms to know that they aren’t alone nor are they monsters and there is help out there. I really appreciate your blog and it’s nice to have that constant encouragement that even though I have been doing better for over a year I’m not alone if I get sad. I hope that makes sense?

    Collette

    • Collette and Katherine,

      I appreciate it. More than I may be able to express in words with this follow-up response. The fact that you are openly stating that attempted to harm your child while dealing with Postpartum Psychosis is very brave. I commend you. I feel happy and relieved for you that your children are still alive today and the outcome was not more tragic.
      I know there are even more women like you and I out there, who are afraid. Afraid to have a voice because of ridicule and being judged.

      Katherine; I reread every one of the links you posted. This one:
      Michigan Mother Found Not Guilty By Reason of Insanity For Infanticide
      resulted in a women also commenting -

      Polly Endicott says:
      May 12, 2010 at 7:31 pm
      Are we ready yet to talk about the abusive acts we have committed while suffering from postpartum depression and psychosis? I’m sure I am not alone in this. My kids and I have been through a lot of good therapy and healing. It was hell at the time. We worked very hard to heal. It was frightening and it continues to be scary to talk about; but I, for one, want to. Anyone else? Any why talk about it? Healing. Healing and forgiveness and moving on.

      I say yes. As for you Katherine stating that sometimes you get your “ass chewed out”; well I am sorry about that. I guess that’s the price for being a public face.
      People shy away from what they don’t understand. Or they lash out. I have had my “ass chewed out” and worse over the last 13+ years more times than I can count. I have been called Murderer, Baby Killer, Child Killer, Demon… I have been told I should never be allowed to see the light of day. That I was lucky to ever be able to lay eyes on my daughter again.
      As I type this it hurts my feelings still to remember all the times over the years I have been ostracized. It still makes me cry. I am more used to now people being unkind than being kind. I know how lonely I have felt for almost 14 years. Waiting, waiting, waiting for someone to start talking about the unthinkable. Harming our most precious gifts; our children. As horrific as any one of you can imagine it is and feel about it. It’s that much worse when you realize you Are the One who did it.
      It tears your guts out. The twisted, turmoil you feel inside is horrendous. I don’t wish that upon Anyone. I just want those women to know they are able to have a voice as well. No one is saying that they are happy if ANY Child gets hurt. Least of all the Moms of those children. But none of them should feel as though they don’t get to talk about how horrible the experience was because we are in the minority.

      Natachia Barlow Ramsey; Surviving Postpartum Psychosis

      • As I replied to Crystal, you are in a unique group of women Natachia and I can see how alone it must feel to be in that group. I wish I knew what to do about it. I do think people need to know, as I tried to point out so many times with the Andrea Yates case, that psychosis is real and that often women who commit infanticide or attempt to commit infanticide or suicide have been let down by the system. If their illnesses were identified and treated promptly, none of these tragedies would ever happen.

    • I get so very angry when I hear about mothers being told there’s no such thing as postpartum OCD or psychosis. I’m so sorry to hear that Collette. At the same time, I’m so glad you have a supportive and understanding husband who has stuck by your side through all of this. I think it makes such a difference when family members, spouses and friends are educated about postpartum psychosis, supportive of the mom and her treatment, and willing to stand up for her whenever she isn’t getting the help she needs.

  7. WOW! I am at a loss for words, and would be open to expanding on this issue if time were permitting. But I’m also tired of reaching out, of asking for advocacy help, not for me, but for my children. A lot of talk and promise, with minimal action. Yeah, I would agree, whole-heartedly, that there is little support, a stigma, or whatever the genre of taboo-ism exists here….I’m neither bipolar nor schizophrenic, but I did experience an extreme-end of a perinatal mood disorder with psychotic features. It led to an attempt on my two children and myself to “go away.” We all survived. By default, I gave custody to my ex-husband; I had a temporary stay at a state psychiatric hospital, and spent the remaining 17 months in a maximum security prison. But for any one mother, who has ever teetered with sleep deprivation, lack of support (even from the doctors whose expertise you are seeking), OCD/Anxiety, and the deepest, darkest, depression, the line between sanity and insanity is not always clear-cut definitive. You don’t fit into any text-book case list of symptoms for one disorder. You don’t have to be bipolar or schizophrenic. That’s why it’s so puzzling for society, for the judicial system, and even for mental health experts who only know how to diagnose and treat via text-book symptoms and cases. There are risk factors, but no formula-one. The most excruciating part of being alive, is living with the clarity of where you went and what you did (or tried to do).

    In the years since, I’ve been fighting just for visitation. I’ve reached out to numerous panel and board members here and through PSI. I’ve reached out to a national suicide prevention organization. Very little returned feedback, even from those who advocate support and advocacy…the irony and heart-wrenching disappointment. Not for me—for my children. There’s big talk and very little action behind the words. I’m flabbergasted by some of these individuals, including one who’s posted here, and is on the legal panel of PSI. You don’t offer to reach out, or minimally reach out (and then forget) and then never follow through! Do I feel ditched in a hole by some members of PSI? Yes. Nearly 12 years ago, I met a “great” perinatal mood disorder psychiatrist, introduced to me by a DC woman whose name and identification later become nationally known in a government investigation. Whatever happened to this psychiatrist, I don’t know, as he disappeared off the radar after my trial. I’m being facetious by referring to him as “great.” He, in fact, came off as quirky-bizarre, never really expanding on this knowledge in a meaningful and helpful way. But rather, he always asked for money (DURING SESSION) for his mysterious perinatal mood disorder foundation. This woman followed on the media circuit and is now a PSI board member. It has long bothered me that she never reached out.

    Did anyone ever care about helping my children? Very few. I’ve seen and read about one another’s fears and concerns–the fate of our children who were by-products of a mother’s experience with a perinatal mood disorder. How will their own mental health be affected by it? What will become of them as teenagers? As adults? Statistically, the results are not good when left untreated or never dealt with in a therapeutic way. And when there has been a suicide of a parent, the predicament of an offspring following the same path increases 50%. I didn’t die, but I could of easily, if not by that fateful day, by the incarceration and the permanent record that has followed. Did I receive help in prison? What do you think? So now, years later, one child has faced a similar path. Does the judicial system care? I can’t say anything decent about their father, either, who’s over the years, made matters worse. Not until it’s too late will someone “care”; and/or the mental health crisis is not self-directed, but directed outwardly, towards others. There’s so much outrage when this happens, and all the red-flag alerts in hind-sight. But when someone asks for help, for advocacy, society (even these ones here) SHUT THE DOOR, with an, “oh, I’m so sorry.”

    • I think it’s probably because PPD advocates don’t know how to help you, Crystal. There’s nothing they can do, other than testify as a witness at the time of a trial as to the mental state of the mother and as to how postpartum psychosis can lead people to do things they wouldn’t ever do otherwise.

      It’s so difficult after a crime has either happened or been attempted to get anyone to think of anything other than that. I can only imagine how it has affected you to end up in prison because of your illness and lose custody of your children. I just don’t think at this point, based on our current laws and our culture as they are now, that anyone can do anything to fix it. I’m sure that’s not the answer you want to hear, but society is not willing to rethink how it treats or handles women who’ve harmed their children or made an attempt to harm them because of postpartum psychosis or severe PPD with psychotic features.

      It must leave all of those in this situation to feel very alone.

    • sarah freeman says:

      !!!! I am so pleased to read what you have written Crystal. I was caught as i fell, but what if my medical and family support system had not been as good??
      My psychosis started with background emotional health and physical health issues that were met by a cluster of stressful events. Fortunately when it began I was driving to a friends place. She is a gentle woman, a friend, a nurse, has had PPP (undiagnosed except by her and not ‘harmful’) and is with a man who is a psychiatric nurse. I knew I could tell them the symptoms I had just experienced, and that I wanted to go to hospital as I had no idea what was happening to me. I was very frightened as it felt like gravity had been reversed and maybe I would start doing extremely weird stuff??? Who knew? What if I jumped out of the car?? I went to emergency after talking with my husband on the phone, and we waited there for a few hours, during which time I experienced more symptoms showing an extreme state of anxiety (I couldn’t do certain things that were normal, I kept crying for no reason I could think of). I saw the doctor who I think thought it was some sort of panic attack, and he advised me basically to not have mad thoughts and go home :-) with a little advise about prioritising….well. I phoned my normal doctor when I got home and also the counsellor I had been seeing. Both I knew were good with psychiatric conditions. Over the next 5 days at home I had two phone calls with my counsellor, a visit to my GP, and I knew now, they really should have been more on the ball. They were very good and got me through and gave temporary relief, but did not respond to the situation as potentially critical, despite symptoms such as not knowing I needed to eat, an inability to leave my bedroom, couldn’t take responsibility for anything, not even knowing when my baby needed a feed, extreme quiet euphoria, very very slow reading ability, couldn’t write properly, and an increasing amount of time spent in my own head and my bedroom. I felt as if waves of incredible height were coming towards me, and I would be swept to the top of them in terror and would come down the other side in some sort of relief, but I started to doubt I could see the top of the waves. Was there a top at all to those coming? Eventually, after five days, when my husbands parents were staying with us and doing everything for the 4 kids, except breastfeeding :-) , my counsellor had asked me if I could promise not to do anything until the next morning when she would visit, but then had later phoned to say she would be an hour late, well I cracked then….no more brave….no more. I am going to the hospital with my bags packed, husband and baby with me and I am staying until I am better. And we turned up and eventually saw someone, who I am very grateful to, who agreed I needed to be admitted, laughed at my hideous whispered fear that they would take my children away, and I am sure pushed some very difficult logistic buttons to get me admitted to psych while my baby was a ‘visitor’ to the paediatric ward. I stayed for 3 weeks. It was an awful place, so desolate and lonely and so many hurting people…but there were good people too, while I untangled myself. And we got the very good news that I had a bed waiting for me at the lovely private hospital that caters specifically for PP problems, and had a wonderful very informed doctor. I spent three weeks there too, were he almost triumphantly said you have PPOCD, anxiety with poss Psychotic features and depression. And I got better. I got better, learned to watch my anxiety rather than run from it, and better. I am now three years later realising how well I am getting, and how unwell I have been, prob since before I had kids.
      The stress is gradually seeping out of the rest of the members of our family in many different ways, and being bandaged and rested and helped. And it hasn’t cost us too much, financially, emotionally, and we have had the best help really that could be expected.
      But still….I don’t like to think about going through all that without that help. And you can see how it could have been so different….I am so sorry you didn’t have good help Crystal. It is awful to imagine what you have gone through.
      I can think of many things that could have helped me more quickly, symptoms that I have not heard others mention, easy questions people could have asked, a society that could be more informed, and more stories about how it has been for others.

      • sarah freeman says:

        read this again, and wondering if you have ever asked for responses to the question, “what could have been/could be better in your treatment to help you recover?” and encouraging all aspects of our recovery…from books lacking, other mums not found, family not understanding, to no suitable hospital, difficulty with medications, costs etc

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