NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) We’re just off Mother’s Day weekend, and sadly, the experience of becoming a mom isn’t always what women think it will be. For some, the postpartum baby blues turn into something much worse than expected.
More emotional, even dangerous in some cases, and not all moms are prepared for that. We are talking about postpartum psychosis. You may recognize where postpartum psychosis has been described as a possible reason why mothers have done the unthinkable by killing their children.
You may remember Andrea Yates of Texas, who drowned her children in 2001. She claimed she did it to protect them. Last January, Lindsay Clancy in Massachusetts told authorities she killed her three children because her voice told her to. While that case remains under investigation, she has made us want to learn more about this condition and who is at risk.
News 8 spoke to real moms in Connecticut who experienced what medical professionals call extremely rare.
I was still participating in Bailey’s care, but not as closely as I should have, said Hamden’s Stephanie Fakharzadeh.
But not rare enough to spare emotional and physical torture for these women.
I had a bad visual hallucination about my daughter being killed, said Teresa Twomey of Cheshire. I was having these OCD type thoughts about throwing my daughter down the stairs.
It’s called postpartum psychosis. Experts describe it as a severe mental illness that disrupts a mother’s sense of reality after she gives up. It can develop within days to up to six weeks after delivery. It causes confusion, delusions, and unusual behavior.
I was losing control of my actions and my body, Fakharzadeh said. My family became very worried that I could hurt myself even more.
Statistics show that it occurs in 1 or 2 out of 1,000 women. Consider that there are approximately 30,000 births in Connecticut each year. Now compare that to the 1 in 7 women who will experience postpartum depression, or the more common baby blues that 80% of postpartum moms experience.
It’s been 25 years since Twomey’s frightening hallucination still haunts her today.
I went around the room looking for something that was sharp that I could do something with, Twomey said. Then I went into the bedroom where she was and saw her. She still gets me. I saw her on the bed, ripped open and covered in blood. In that moment, I felt like I knew I killed her. Eventually, I realized she was there on the bed sleeping.
Twomey was lucky it was just a hallucination and her son was unharmed. For some women, it’s a different result.
That’s why Twomey wrote a book, Understanding Postpartum Psychosis, which documents his experience.
Doctors, share with your patients, he said. Help them have a plan. Help them to be able to protect themselves.
Fakharzadeh was admitted to Yale’s psychiatric ward two-and-a-half weeks postpartum after she became obsessed that her 2020 COVID-19 pandemic baby was here for a greater purpose. The obsession has stolen her attention.
I was really posting excessively on social media, Fakharzadeh said. In some of those posts, I was just a little more erratic or a little longer or just saying things that didn’t quite sound right and felt a little out of place, and my husband caught on to that pretty quickly.
Today, she is in good health and has been blogging and joining fundraising efforts to help others.
These moms bring a different story, showing how different the disease and experience can be that they weren’t expecting.
Things you never imagined you believed before become real to you in psychosis, Fakharzadeh said.
The weight on their shoulders, the sense of guilt in some cases for having lost precious time bonding mother-child due to a mental illness of which they say they know nothing.
I love even more now because of the things I’ve been through, Fakharzadeh said.
These women share their stories to protect others and encourage families to have a plan.
You may wonder how this happens to one woman and not the other, whether these women had any underlying health conditions, and what dads and family members can do to help out.
In Part Two of this Thursday special report on News 8 at 5pm and 11pm, we’ll dive into the medical end of postpartum psychosis and look at treatment
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News 8 Laura Hutchinson discussed the two-part special report with Darren Kramer. Listen to their discussion in the video below.
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