Postpartum depression and psychosis: What you need to know

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- A mother accused of stabbing and mutilating her 4-year-old son has stunned the Houston community and left local authorities looking for answers. Jenea Mungia is currently undergoing a mental evaluation and friends say that she struggled with postpartum psychosis immediately after her son's birth.

In order to shine a light on the illness of postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis, a condition in which many women suffer in silence, Eyewitness News spoke with Dr. Richard Pesikoff, a clinical professor of psychiatry at Baylor College of Medicine.

A common question among many after a child is hurt by a mother is, how could a mother do this?

Pesikoff said, "The role of mother is submerged by -- if it's mental illness -- it's submerged by the illness. The idea of being a caring person and being responsible for the welfare of the child is drowned out by whatever the forces of mental illness are. So you're really not a parent at the moment that these things are happening."

According to Peskoff, about 70 percent of all women have a condition often referred to as the "baby blues." These chemical changes happen after they give birth, which lead to a drop in mood with instances of brief crying and a few days of sadness, and the mother questions how she is going to do as a parent.

While these changes usually resolve, "some of these women go on to develop a true depression and a depression involves mood alterations, crying, anxiety, sleep problems,(and) appetite problems," Pesikoff said.

This condition occurs usually in the first month after the baby's birth.

According to Pesikoff, that condition can then morph into postpartum psychosis, an even more severe state where the thinking of the person becomes "very strange."

He explained, "They start to have false beliefs, delusions, and they think they're getting orders from God or the devil to do terrible things to their child. The mother thinks she and the baby shouldn't be alive."

Pesikoff added, "Most postpartum depressions resolve within the first six to 12 months after the birth of the baby, assuming the person got adequate care and that they were actually treated and the depression was resolved.
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