Postpartum psychosis: Beyond depression, a rare disorder may be behind fatal DC chase


Interviews with some of those who knew the 34-year-old woman, Miriam Carey, suggested she was coming apart well before she loaded her one-year-old daughter into the car for the drive to Washington. Carey's mother reportedly said her daughter had postpartum depression.

But psychiatrist Lucy Puryear, who testified for the defense in the trial of Andrea Yates, a Houston woman accused of drowning her children in 2001, said it doesn't sound like postpartum depression to her.

"[Postpartum depression is] depression: sad mood, lack of energy," said Dr. Puryear, a psychiatrist with Texas Children's Pavilion for Women.

Puryear said Carey's situation sounds more like postpartum psychosis, which is what Yates had. Yates drowned her five children because she thought she was protecting them from Satan, Puryear said. Today, psychiatrists treating Yates have told the court she is well enough to leave the state mental hospital with supervision, but the court has not agreed. If Carey also had postpartum psychosis, Puryear said it could have been exacerbated if she had other mental problems.

"The thing about postpartum psychosis is it makes no sense," Puryear said. "It's crazy thoughts."

According to Puryear, postpartum psychosis is rare, so new mothers shouldn't worry that they might suddenly develop postpartum depression and go crazy.

"It is extremely uncommon," Puryear said. "And the most important thing to remember is these illnesses are treatable, and most women don't hurt their babies."

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