A triple homicide in a Boston suburb has rocked the nation.
Lindsay Clancy, 32, is accused of killing her daughter Cora, five, and sons Dawson, three, and eight-month-old Callan.
She is suspected of suffering from a severe form of postpartum depression – a common but taboo condition that affects up to one in seven new parents, mostly mothers. Some experts speak of a ‘silent pandemic’.
Most new parents who develop the condition after giving birth experience mood swings, crying spells, anxiety, and trouble sleeping.
Symptoms usually begin within the first two to three days after giving birth and can last up to two weeks, but a small proportion of patients experience a more severe, long-term form of depression.
An even smaller number of mothers develop postpartum psychosis after giving birth, which can lead to hallucinations, delusions and paranoia.
Lindsay Clancy, 32, is accused of killing her daughter Cora, 5, and son Dawson, 3, at the family home in Massachusetts and assaulting baby Callan, who is eight months old. Pictured LR: Lindsay, Dawson, Corey and husband Patrick
Women suffering from postpartum depression often experience sadness, hopelessness, emptiness and depression
While “baby blues,” feelings of sadness that occur after a woman gives birth due to hormonal changes, are common during the first two weeks after pregnancy.
Postpartum depression lasts long after pregnancy and can be debilitating. It affects between seven and 20 percent of mothers, experts say.
Experts warn that postpartum depression is more common than many think, as up to half of mothers who suffer from it report no symptoms.
In 2006, a University of Connecticut-led research team estimated that half of cases remain undiagnosed.
This is because many fear the stigma of being sad during what is seen as a time of joy and not getting the needed support from friends and family.
Women who already suffer from mental health problems such as depression and anxiety, a lack of social support after pregnancy, smoking and more complicated childbirth are more likely to develop the condition.
Younger mothers and mothers who give birth prematurely are also at greater risk.
However, exactly why it happens is not known. Some have speculated that genetics or hormonal imbalances may be at play.
Symptoms of the condition include depression, loss of interest in daily activities, insomnia, fatigue, anxiety, and poor concentration.
Women suffering from the condition are advised to seek psychotherapy and other forms of counseling.
Treatments often include antidepressants. The National Institutes of Health recommends selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors — SSRIs — as the first choice.
In the most severe cases, a woman develops postpartum psychosis. This occurs in up to 0.2 percent of pregnancies.
Women are more likely to have this condition if they already had bipolar disorder before pregnancy.
Postpartum psychosis is accompanied by delusions, hallucinations, hyperactivity, rapid mood swings and paranoia.
If a woman with postpartum psychosis is not treated, she is at risk of suicide or infanticide.
About one in 20 women with postpartum psychosis commit suicide and about one in 25 kill their child.
It is currently unclear what condition Mrs Clancy suffered from and how serious the case is.