Getting Answers: symptoms of postpartum depression and psychosis

A Massachusetts mom is accused of killing her three children while it’s believed she was suffering from severe postpartum depression.
Published: Feb. 7, 2023 at 3:39 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 7, 2023 at 5:26 PM EST
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SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) - A Massachusetts mom is accused of killing her three children while it’s believed she was suffering from severe postpartum depression. As the mother of three was being arraigned in Plymouth on Tuesday via Zoom, we’re getting answers from a local psychiatrist to help us better understand this type of illness.

Lindsay Clancy of Duxbury faced charges from her Boston hospital bed on Tuesday. The 32-year-old labor and delivery nurse appeared via Zoom at Plymouth District Court as she recovers from injuries suffered after jumping from a window at her home.

As Clancy faced charges of homicide, strangulation, and assault and battery with a deadly weapon, her attorneys argued that she was suffering from postpartum psychosis, so we’re getting answers on the symptoms associated with this type of mood disorder. Stuart Anfang, vice chair of psychiatry at Baystate Health, told Western Mass News that experiencing the ‘the baby blues’ is not uncommon for new moms. In fact, he told us that postpartum depression affects around 15 to 20 percent of new mothers after they deliver.

“Some of it is related to the changes in the hormones after pregnancy and some of it may be related to, obviously, the stress and changes of having a newborn baby,” Anfang said.

However, postpartum psychosis is much rarer and affects somewhere around 1 in 1,000 women. Anfang said the biggest difference in postpartum depression versus psychosis is the severity of the symptoms. Postpartum depression symptoms include isolation, suicidal thoughts, poor sleeping or eating irritability, feelings of hopelessness or not being able to bond with your baby. When the depression becomes more severe, Anfang explained it can turn into psychosis, which is recognized through symptoms of paranoia, delusions about themselves or the baby, thoughts of harming themselves or the baby, hallucinations, or being out of touch with reality

“Severe delusions about themselves that they are going to be an unfit mother or that something that they’re doing is harming the baby or that somebody wants to harm them. Certainly, if people are hearing hallucinations, like hearing voices or seeing things that other people don’t hear…or hearing commands for that someone is giving you the message to hurt yourself or hurt the baby, those are emergencies in require immediate intervention,” Anfang explained.

Anfang told us that, if untreated, psychosis can last several months to a year after the birth of a child and it can also progressively get worse. Women who have had a prior history of depression or a history of mood disorders themselves or in the family or a previous history of postpartum depression are all at-risk for another episode.

“It’s hard for us to understand it, but you have to understand that it is a real illness. It’s an illness like diabetes is an illness or a stroke is an illness or heart disease is an illness. This is a brain illness and basically, the way that the brain is functioning is not normal. It’s not functioning properly,” Anfang added.

He said treatments can have side effects. However, it’s unlikely that the treatments themselves can lead to more severe psychosis or lead to a tragic event like the one in Duxbury.

“…But it sounds like people recognize she was in need because obviously, she was getting some kind of treatment…Obviously, the interventions that were being offered weren’t helpful enough,” Anfang said.

Anfang added that in most of the cases that turn tragic, patients never sought proper treatment. He said that can start with your primary care doctor or even your child’s pediatrician and there are state-funded programs that can help.


Postpartum Support International - Massachusetts

MCPAP for Moms

Mass. PPD Fund