Is there a way to help prevent women from strangling their children?
We hear news about a mother who killed her 7 babies or a pregnant mom who drove her car full of children into the ocean and respond with “WTF IS WRONG WITH THESE PSYCHOS?” It’s easy to dismiss their stories as simply shock-value news, however the largest postpartum depression screening in the US, published in 2013, reveals that 14% of women in the US have clinical depression postpartum, and 19.3% of those women consider harming themselves.
Mental illness is a taboo topic for some and 30% of people have a hard time even admitting they’ve experienced mental illness. This NY Times article, “Thinking of Ways to Harm Her” paints a vivid, painful picture of women suffering from postpartum depression in the US. They suffer from disgusting thoughts of hurting their children. Watch video segments here.
People who have no connection to mental illness may have the misconception that there are 2 different types of people in this world: the psychos and the sane-os. However, I believe there are psychos in all of us! Haha, (kidding but not kidding). Let me explain myself. So you’ve heard of something called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder right? It’s for people who come back from war and are scarred from visions of companions dying and bombs destroying villages right? Wrong. It’s a disorder that can develop when a person is placed in any traumatic event. So lets take labor. A woman, who was once an innocent little child, develops this bump in her belly after doing what the world told her feels good and helps connect her to a man. Her body changes drastically, hormones go all over the place:
Then, if the women is like the 78.2% of women in California (my home state–woot woot!) then she is going to get an epidural. And if she has an epidural, she can experience longer labour; increased incidence of maternal fever (with associated increase in use of antibiotics for mothers and newborns); and increased rates of operative vaginal delivery and perineal trauma such as 3rd or 4th degree tears (yeah, tearing all the way to your butthole!) Although mental illness can be influenced by genes and the environment, and there is no one reason why it occurs, disorders like PTSD and postpartum depression are triggered from a traumatic event.
So what is it in postpartum depression that causes a woman to go crazy? The following can contribute:
- isolation, or lack of loving community and support for a new mother ( so important!)
- lack of nutrients-including folate, vitamin B12, calcium, iron, selenium, zinc, and omega-3
- The natural drop in estrogen and progesterone and a woman’s inability to cope with the hormonal changes
- stressful labor where the mother is uncomfortable, under stress, feeling a loss of control
- past history of depression
- education about the causes and effects of postpartum depression
- early detection
- postpartum community and support
- increased understanding of how a woman can meet her own physical and psychological needs.
All of the above may have significant nonpharmacological preventative results.
We may not be able to prevent all women from becoming psychotic monsters. However, with education, a stronger community of supportive mothers, and greater awareness, there are great preventative measures we can take that may ultimately help save families that would otherwise suffer in silence.
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