Police say a renowned oncologist and her 4-month-old baby are dead after an apparent murder-suicide. Postpartum psychosis may have been a factor.
Dr. Krystal Cascetta, a physician at Mount Sinai Hospital, reportedly fatally shot her newborn daughter in their Somers, N.Y., home on Saturday morning and then turned the gun on herself. Law enforcement told Lohud.com that Cascetta’s husband was away at the time of the shooting, but her parents were in the house.
Postpartum psychosis, which is a rare mental health condition, is considered a psychiatric emergency since it increases the risk of both suicide and infanticide.
But what causes postpartum psychosis and what are the signs to look out for? Here’s what you need to know.
What are the signs of postpartum psychosis?
While it’s normal for new moms to experience sadness and anxiety after giving birth, postpartum psychosis differs significantly from postpartum blues, which is common and affects about 80 percent of new parents, and it’s more severe than postpartum depression.
Women’s health expert Dr. Jennifer Wider, tells Yahoo Life: “The symptoms can include mood changes, rapid mood swings between mania and depression, disorganized thoughts and behavior, trouble sleeping, severe agitation, thoughts of self-harm or harming the infant, delusions and hallucinations.”
Adds Wider: “It’s dangerous because the symptoms are severe and get worse in a short period of time. If not diagnosed and treated quickly, new moms with postpartum psychosis can harm themselves or others.”
Although women can develop postpartum psychosis anywhere from within hours to weeks after giving birth, symptoms typically develop between three to 10 days after birth, Dr. Ariadna Forray, a Yale Medicine postpartum psychiatry specialist, previously told Yahoo Life. However, Postpartum Support International points out that it can appear any time within the first year.
What causes postpartum psychosis? Who is most at risk?
There are several factors that can contribute to postpartum psychosis, which affects 1 to 2 out of every 1,000 women after childbirth.
According to the National Institutes of Health, “There are physical and hormonal changes, lack of sleep and exhaustion, and the beginning of a new role and commitment in caring for a newborn, which is both physically and emotionally challenging.”
Postpartum psychosis can happen to anyone. However, there are other factors that put people at higher risk. About one-third of those who develop postpartum psychosis were previously diagnosed with a mental health condition, such as bipolar disorder, according to Cleveland Clinic. Being diagnosed with major depressive disorder and schizophrenia spectrum conditions may also increase the risk, along with having a family history of postpartum psychosis.
The disorder is also more common in women who recently gave birth to their first child, according to Cleveland Clinic.
How is it treated?
Postpartum psychosis is a treatable condition. “Most people with postpartum psychosis make a full recovery with appropriate treatment,” Forray said. That typically means in-patient care with trained medical professionals and medications.
If you or someone you know shows signs of postpartum psychosis, get help right away. “Seek immediate medical attention with a health care provider who understands mental health issues, especially in the postpartum time period,” says Wider.
If someone is a danger to themselves or their child, Cleveland Clinic advises calling 911 immediately.