As Black History Month draws to a close and we enter Women’s History Month, it feels fitting to highlight a major issue that intersects with both communities: Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders. PMADs are one of the most common medical complications related to child-bearing, affecting roughly 1 in 5 birthing people, including partners.
In the past six months, ten children tragically lost their lives to the unspeakable actions of mothers who were all suffering from severe and untreated symptoms of PMADs, including Erin Merdy in Brooklyn, Dimone Fleming in the Bronx, Paulesha Green-Pulliam in San Francisco and Lindsay Clancy in a Massachusetts town. And yet, the only one of the most recent tragedies to make national headlines was that of Lindsay Clancy’s, a white labor and delivery nurse in a Boston suburb. In response, perinatal mental health Hajara Kutty writes, “...it is disturbing and hurtful that these same conversations failed to materialize when Black children were at the center of similar tragedies. In the absence of a relevant angle, many media stories involving the racialized mothers morphed into narratives about how they lived in shelters, were on the brink of eviction or facing custody battles. The implication is that these mothers took their children’s lives because of hardship. As those in the field of postpartum mental health, we know this is not the case. All of these women were postpartum and many were exhibiting bizarre behavior before the tragedies (a key symptom of postpartum psychosis).”
The media frequently mislabels symptoms of postpartum psychosis as postpartum depression, further muddying and stigmatizing the public’s already distorted awareness of maternal mental health risks. Postpartum psychosis usually occurs around 1-2 weeks postpartum and impacts roughly 1 of 1,000 postpartum birthing people. It is often associated with previously undiagnosed bipolar disorder and the most common symptoms are severe agitation, delusional or bizarre thinking, hallucinations, insomnia, confusion, & dissociative feelings. Although a fairly rare condition, it is both preventable and treatable with timely and appropriate medical attention. Kutty concludes, “We need to add our voices to steer the conversations to the topic of postpartum mental health whenever the tragedy involves any mom within a year of giving birth. If postpartum mental illnesses don’t discriminate, then neither should we.”
Post by Sharon Itkoff Nacache ATR-BC LCAT LPAT PMH-C
Original Image by Max Larochelle via Unsplash