On January 24, 2023, a devastating event occurred in Massachusetts when a mother, Lindsay Clancy, 32, decided to take the lives of her three children (5-year-old Cora, 3-year-old Dawson, and infant son Callan) and attempted to end her own life. According to the district attorney’s office, the two eldest children were declared dead that night.

The tragedy has sparked a renewed discussion about postpartum depression and psychosis, especially after all notable media channels reported that Clancy had shared her struggles with postpartum anxiety on social media in July. This highlights the importance of addressing and offering support for women suffering from postpartum mental health issues after birth. Two of the notable one is postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis.

What Is Postpartum Depression (PD)?

PD is a type of depression that affects some women after giving birth. It is a prevalent condition affecting 10-20% of women after childbirth. They may experience feelings of sadness, low mood, unhappiness, and confusion, despite having expected to feel joy after giving birth.

The common symptoms include:

  • Persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and tearfulness
  • Lack of interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Low energy levels and fatigue
  • Sleeping difficulties, either insomnia or excessive sleep
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
  • Inability to concentrate or make decisions
  • Thoughts of self-harm or suicide

What Is Postpartum Psychosis (PPP)?

Mothers with postpartum psychosis have trouble emotionally connecting with their infant and may even consider hurting the baby. It is a severe mental health disorder that leads to a distorted sense of reality, interfering with an individual’s ability to function normally in daily life. It typically develops suddenly within the first few weeks after giving birth.

Symptoms include:

  • Hallucinations and delusions
  • Extremely elevated or manic mood
  • Sudden mood changes
  • Irritability, aggression, and paranoia
  • Disordered speech or thoughts
  • Sleeping problems, either insomnia or excessive sleep
  • Disconnection from reality
  • Thoughts of harm to oneself or others

Although it is a rare condition, affecting only 1-2 out of every 1000 women, the risk of developing PPP increases if a woman has a history of schizoaffective or bipolar disorder or a family history of PPP.

Supporting A Loved One With Their Recovery

As the significant other, you can support a mother who is going through postpartum depression or postpartum psychosis. These are some ways you can assist:

For Postpartum Depression:

  • Show emotional support and actively listen to her emotions and worries
  • Assist with household tasks and caring for the baby
  • Encourage her to get professional help through therapy or medication
  • Support her self-care, such as exercising, eating well, and getting enough sleep
  • Urge her to participate in activities that she used to enjoy

For Postpartum Psychosis:

  • Be conscious of the signs of psychosis and immediately seek medical help if any symptoms are present
  • Be a source of support for the mother and help her manage daily tasks
  • Work with healthcare providers to ensure that she receives adequate care and treatment
  • Help maintain a safe and stable environment for the mother and baby
  • Urge her to follow her treatment plan and offer support throughout the recovery process

It’s crucial to keep in mind that postpartum depression and psychosis are medical conditions and require professional treatment. You can substantially impact the mother’s recovery and overall well-being by providing support and encouragement.