34 year old Miriam Carey was killed by police yesterday in an incident that locked down Capitol Hill and put DC in a state of panic. We're still sorting through why this 34 year old dental hygenist from Stamford CT. with no history of violence led law enforcement on a high speed chase with her one year old daughter in the car. One clue comes from her mother Idella Carey. Carey said her daughter suffered from post-partum depression after the birth of her baby last August.
A number of years ago I moderated a conference on postpartum depression sponsored by the Maternity Care Coaltion in Philadelphia. Many new moms experience the "baby blues" after childbirth which can include mood swings and crying spells. Some experience a more severe long lasting type of depression and in rare cases an extreme form called postpartum psychosis.
At the conference I heard story after story of women from all walks of life, high income, low income talk about their struggles with depression after birth. Some talked about their inability to bond with their baby. Other's talked of suicide and some even harbored thoughts of harming their child. Many talked about how they were embarrased to share their thoughts - after all childbirth is supposed to be a time of joy - right?
The Mayo Clinic says it's important to call your doctor if the signs and symptoms of depression after childbirth have any of these features:
1. Don't fade after two weeks
2. Are getting worse
3. Make it hard to for you to care for your baby
4. Make it hard to complete everyday tasks
5. Include thoughts of harming yourself or your baby.
If you experience any of these symptoms don't wait and hope for improvement. Postpartum psychosis may lead to life threatening thoughts or behaviors.
We don't know yet - the exact chain of events that led Miriam Carey to her death - but the incident shines a light on the dangers of postpartum depression and the importance of understanding it and making sure women suffering from it get the help they need.
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