Late Thursday Reads: Postpartum Psychosis

Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!!

There’s a heartbreaking case in Duxbury, Massachusetts right now that is being treated as a crime story; but it’s also a women’s reproductive health story. Lindsay Clancy killed two of her children and seriously injured a third, an infant. Then she jumped out of a second floor window. Clancy and her surviving baby are currently hospitalized. Clancy was a loving mother who worked as a labor and delivery nurse at Massachusetts General Hospital. She is now charged with murder. This is a women’s health story, because Clancy suffered from postpartum psychosis. She was reportedly in therapy. She never should have been left alone with her children. Duxbury mother who attempted suicide to be charged with murdering 2 of her children, officials say.

Lindsay Clancy, 32, is accused of killing her 5-year-old daughter, Cora, and 3-year-old son, Dawson, Cruz said in a press conference Wednesday. A third child, 7 months old, survived and was flown to Boston Children’s Hospital, where he remains, according to Cruz.

Shortly after 6 p.m. on Tuesday, a man — who Cruz later identified as Clancy’s husband — called 911 to report a suspected suicide attempt at the family’s 47 Summer St. home. Clancy, who had jumped from a window, remained hospitalized Wednesday, Cruz said.

Inside the home, emergency crews found the three children with “obvious signs of severe trauma,” Cruz said. A preliminary investigation suggested the children had been strangled, he said.

“As soon as able, we will be arraigning [Clancy] on the two charges of murder in the deaths of her children,” he said.

Cruz declined to comment on whether postpartum psychosis — which can result in delusions, hallucinations, and paranoia in mothers who have recently given birth — may have played a role, but he said officials are looking at all angles.

“When something like this happens, there are obviously usually more questions than there are answers,” he said. “As we proceed forward, we will give answers as we can.”

Clancy’s Facebook page identifies her as a labor and delivery nurse at Massachusetts General Hospital, and the hospital confirmed that she is an employee. How could a mother allegedly kill her children? Experts say mental health can distort thinking.

What would prompt a mother to do such a thing?

Paradoxically, experts say, the culprit in such deaths is often a loving mother in the throes of mental illness, motivated by love and attachment to her children.

Cheryl L. Meyer, a psychology professor at Wright State University who studies mothers who kill their children, recalled interviewing one such woman who had also tried to kill herself. The mother told her that killing her kids felt logical because they were an extension of herself,as if they were a limb.

”She couldn’t die without taking her arm. She couldn’t die without taking the kids,” Meyer said Wednesday.

As mother of an 7-month-old, Clancy was still in the year-long postpartum period, and she had revealed on social media that she had suffered from postpartum depression in the past.

In rare cases — about 1 or 2 out every 1,000 postpartum women – this depression can progress to psychosis, in which a woman’s brain is “hijacked by a really, really serious illness that distorts reality” and prompts actions they would never take if healthy, said Dr. Nancy Byatt, professor of psychiatry, obstetrics & gynecology and population & quantitative health sciences at UMass Chan Medical School.

In some cases, Hatters Friedman said, the parent’s motive is altruistic — “murder out of love,” however strange that may sound. A parent may have delusions that the child faces a fate worse than death, such as being kidnapped and murdered, and believes killing them gently is preferable. Parents who are planning suicide may not want to leave their child in a world they perceive as too horrible to live in.

In the acutely psychotic cases, a parent may think God is commanding them to kill their child or that their child is evil, she said.

People are often stunned by such killings because often the mothers were known as perfect and loving, said Meyer, who wrote two books on the subject. “These mothers are often described as just being quintessential moms. They’re the definition of a good mom,” she said. “And so that’s why it’s really shocking when you hear that they do these things.”

New York Post: Massachusetts mom Lindsay Clancy shared postpartum anxiety battle before allegedly killing kids.

The Massachusetts mom accused of strangling her two young kids and trying to kill her infant before jumping out a window had revealed online months earlier that she was struggling with her mental health after giving birth.

Lindsay Clancy, 32, opened up about her battle with postpartum anxiety on Facebook in July, months before the shocking violence at her home in Duxbury on Tuesday, the Boston Globe reported.

Six weeks after the birth of her third child, the mom of three shared another post about how she felt “dialed in” again.

She said she was focusing on exercise, nutrition and her mindset — noting “it has made all the difference,” the outlet reported….

Clancy, who graduated from Lyman Hall High School in Wallingford, Connecticut, and Patrick were married in 2016 in Southington, Connecticut, the paper reported,

She earned a biology degree from Quinnipiac University in 2012 and holds a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the Massachusetts General Hospital Institute of Health Professions, the Globe said….

Clancy appeared online to be a doting mom who was living an idyllic life in the suburban community.

“I feel like the luckiest mama in the whole wide world,” she wrote. In a later post she said: “So unbelievably thankful for this family and life.”

Clancy was highly educated and affluent, with access to the best health care, but this still happened to her. The fact is that women’s reproductive health problems are not considered important in our male-dominated society. It’s not surprising that women on Twitter who are sharing their own stories about postpartum stress are being attacked by dismissive men.

The Guardian, Nov. 2019: The female problem: how male bias in medical trials ruined women’s health.

From the earliest days of medicine, women have been considered inferior versions of men. In On the Generation of Animals, the Greek philosopher Aristotle characterised a female as a mutilated male, and this belief has persisted in western medical culture.

“For much of documented history, women have been excluded from medical and science knowledge production, so essentially we’ve ended up with a healthcare system, among other things in society, that has been made by men for men,” Dr Kate Young, a public health researcher at Monash University in Australia, tells me.

Young’s research has uncovered how doctors fill knowledge gaps with hysteria narratives. This is particularly prevalent when women keep returning to the doctor, stubbornly refusing to be saved….

“Rather than acknowledge the limitations of medical knowledge, medicine expected women to take control (with their minds) of their disease (in their body) by accepting their illness, making ‘lifestyle’ changes and conforming to their gendered social roles of wife and mother. Moralising discourses surround those who rebel; they are represented as irrational and irresponsible, the safety net for medicine when it cannot fulfil its claim to control the body.”

In her work, Young has shown how endometriosis patients are often viewed by their treating doctors as “reproductive bodies with hysterical tendencies”. One gynaecologist said to Young: “Do mad people get endo or does endo make you mad? It’s probably a bit of both.” Another said: “There’s a lot of psychology, just as much as there is pathology [in gynaecology].”

Nobody suggests that endometriosis is not a real disease, or is somehow imagined, but there is a general feeling in medicine that women’s reaction to having endometriosis is somehow hysterical, especially when symptoms prevail after treatment has been offered, which is common. And it is not just endometriosis patients treated this way. One male GP said to me: “I’ve never had a fibromyalgia patient who wasn’t batshit crazy.”

Historically, Young says, men have made “the medical science about women and their bodies, and there is an abundance of research evidence about the ways in which that knowledge has been constructed to reinforce the hysteria discourse and women as reproductive bodies discourse. One of my favourite examples is that in some of the first sketches of skeletons, male anatomy artists intentionally made women’s hips look wider and their craniums look much smaller as a way of saying: ‘Here is our evidence that women are reproductive bodies and they need to stay at home and we can’t risk making them infertile by making them too educated, look how tiny their heads are.’ And we see that again and again.”

There’s much more to this important article. Read the rest at the link.

Mallika Marshall MD at CBS News Boston: What is postpartum psychosis?

Postpartum psychosis is much less common than postpartum blues or postpartum depression, occurring in only 1 to 2 out of every 1,000 births. It usually appears within two weeks of childbirth as hallucinations, delusions, disorganized thoughts, confusion, and bizarre behaviors. Patients may be suicidal or have thoughts of harming others, including their own children. Many women with postpartum psychosis are eventually diagnosed with an underlying psychiatric disorder, such as bipolar disorder.

Many people may be wondering how to prevent a tragedy like the case in Duxbury from happening.

All women should be screened during pregnancy and in the postpartum period for mental health problems.

Those with a family history of mental illness or previous episodes of postpartum depression or psychosis are at higher risk of having it again with subsequent pregnancies and should seek treatment before symptoms begin.

Once it sets in, postpartum psychosis is considered a medical emergency. These patients should never be left alone with their children and usually need to be hospitalized for specialized psychiatric treatment.

Juli McDonald at CBS News Boston: ‘This is not your life forever,’ Advocates urge mothers to seek help for postpartum psychosis.

Karen Smith could never forget the joy, meeting her beautiful daughter exactly sixteen years ago. “When I held her, I was just so happy,” the mother said, smiling.

Pictures tell that happy story.

“You would have never known, I was about to completely lose my mind,” Karen said, looking at a photo of her with her newborn daughter.

Months into motherhood, there were manic moments. The first, during a trip to Newport.

“We were in one of the mansions looking at a painting and I started to tell my husband my daughter was the person in the painting,” she recalled.

And then Karen suffered postpartum psychosis.

“I dropped her on the floor. I didn’t even know I was holding a baby. I had no idea where I was,” Karen said.

Karen had the support of her husband and her own watchful mother. She was hospitalized three times as they focused on medicine and Karen’s health and her daughter’s safety. Hallucinations and delusions can be so vivid for women who are suffering. And there is tremendous fear.

“If I seek help, what if there’s no help available, and then something does happen. I’ll get the electric chair because that will be used to show I intended to do that. My help seeking would be used to say this is premeditate,” advocate Teresa Twomey recalls, of her frantic mindset as she was flooded with frightening intrusive thoughts….

The women who sought treatment and survived that darkness, feel only empathy for the Clancys in Duxbury.

“I have 100% certainty: the thing that separates me form them is luck. So if you condemn them, condemn me too. Because it could’ve been me,” Twomey added.

No politics news from me today, but please feel free to post any stories that interest you. Take care, Sky Dancers.

14 Comments on “Late Thursday Reads: Postpartum Psychosis”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    I did something a little different today–hope you guys don’t mind.

    • quixote says:

      An enormously important topic! Speaking of the damaging and lethal effects of medicine ignoring women’s experiences, Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez has fascinating summaries about it through history and now.

      It never ceases to amaze me that 50% of humankind can be just simply not seen. Tells us a lot about how stunted the understanding of humanity is among those who can’t see it.

    • NW Luna says:

      Thank you for doing this topic. Since “1 or 2 out every 1,000 postpartum women” experience this, it should receive much more research and awareness.

      Women’s health, especially mental health, is badly under taught, under researched and under funded. Still too much assumption that the only difference between men and women is the skeleton size and hormone levels. No, we can’t assume that studies carried out on men can be applied to women.

      As for women’s pain being dismissed or under treated, think about this: Menstrual cramps can be more painful than a heart attack, based on strength of muscle contractions. The uterus is the strongest muscle in the human body.

      • bostonboomer says:

        Thanks so much for reading my post, Luna. This tragedy did not have to happen. Lindsay Clancy should have been getting more support from family and health care providers. Why was she left alone with the children? If this can happen to a woman with her knowledge and experience, it can happen to any woman. Now lives are destroyed.

    • NW Luna says:

      Just one example of sex differences:

      The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has increased awareness about sex-specific differences in immunity and outcomes following respiratory virus infections. Strong evidence of a male bias in COVID-19 disease severity will be presented based on clinical data and preclinical animals models, which illustrate sex differential immune responses against SARS-CoV-2. Prior to the pandemic, data from other viral infections, including influenza viruses, showed profound sex differences in virus-specific immunity, including locally in the respiratory tract. We have used influenza A viruses to interrogate sex-specific immunity to infection and vaccination. Although males are more susceptible to most viral infections, females possess immunological features that contribute to greater vulnerability to immune-mediated pathology while experiencing better protection following vaccination.

  2. bostonboomer says:

  3. NW Luna says:


    Mothers feel more worried, stressed and judged than fathers, says Pew survey

    Mothers said they do more than their spouses or partners to manage child-care responsibilities (most fathers claimed the division of labor is roughly equal).

    • quixote says:

      Yes, like men feel there’s *over*representation of women if the number gets above 17% (or whatever tiny fraction it was) in any given group.

      We need a nuclear version of the dope slap.