Postpartum Psychosis and Depression

The illness known as postpartum depression is being talked about these days in the wake of a Houston mother burying her baby alive. But family members say the woman had a mental illness long before she gave birth. Bill Stamps reports — experts say it's the combination of psychosis and depression that can often prove deadly.
"I remember they went out to go get some food and I just cried and cried and cried."

Twenty-five year old Julianna Heyward gave birth to her son Noah in January of last year. The happiness of being a new quickly turned into a nightmare as she sank into a deep depression and began to question herself.

"You know is this what motherhood feels like? Am I going to feel like this forever? Did I make a terrible mistake?"


She remembers begging her husband one day not to leave for work.

"Because I can't do this. I can't be with a baby for the entire day. He won't stop crying. I don't know what to do when he's crying."

Julianna didn't know it at the time, but she was suffering from postpartum depression. Houston Psychotherapist Mary Jo Rapini explains.

"Postpartum depression is when those baby blues symptoms get very intense and worsen and they last over two weeks and it goes into a full depression usually. It's like the perfect storm. There's many things changing within your body. There's many things changing medically and the stress and hormone shifting can just really, really cause something to happen and it's normally a depressed state."

In the recent case of the Houston woman who buried her two-month old alive, her attorney says she had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and had been treated for mental illness on more than one occasion in the Middle East before moving to the U.S..

Sherry Duson runs a support group in Houston for women suffering from postpartum depression. She says most women with PPD aren't psychotic, but those who do have mental illnesses are usually misjudged by their family.

"They'll know that she may be mentally ill, but they'll think well she loves the baby she would never hurt the baby. The misunderstanding is that people who are psychotic make choices that are not normal that are not really based on how they feel about the baby when they're normal."

The experts say women with postpartum psychosis almost always had it or had signs of it before giving birth. Those are the women that usually end up harming themselves or their babies. The Houston woman is now facing capital murder charges and her attorney says she may plead insanity.

As for Julianna Heyward, she never thought about hurting anyone. The depression just wouldn't allow her to cope. But with medication, counseling and by attending the support group she eventually got better.

And her son Noah...

"He just runs around doing things and he's starting to talk and he's just amazing." 





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