Watch CBS News

'This is not your life forever,' Advocates urge mothers to seek help for postpartum psychosis

Advocates urge mothers to seek help for postpartum psychosis
Advocates urge mothers to seek help for postpartum psychosis 02:32

BOSTON - 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.

But there is help. And hope, and healing.

"This is not your life forever. In the moment it feels like it. I think it's helpful to hear it does get better. You cannot wait this out, you cannot lift this off yourself, you cannot outperform your mind and subconscious mindset," said Serena Rosa, an assistant professor at the MGH Institute of Health Professions. She created "The Postpartum Doctor" to serve women and families navigating matrescence, the process of becoming a mother.

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.  

Click here for a list of mental health resources, including suicide prevention hotlines. A new maternal health hotline has also been established for mothers or pregnant people who are struggling with their mental health. Anyone in need of assistance can call 1-833-9-HELP4MOMS or 1-833-943-5746. You can call or text to receive support from trained counselors.   

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.