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Mom Gives Up Baby Due To Postpartum Depression

By Heather Turgeon |

Zahra Baker and postpartum depression

Mom gives up custody of baby in bout of PPD

An article in Time yesterday highlighted the role that postpartum depression played in the tragic case of Zahra Baker, the North Carolina child whose remains were found recently.

Her biological mother, Emily Dietrich, of New South Wales Australia, says that a severe case of postpartum depression is what made her decide to give over custody to Adam Baker when Zahra was a baby. She later regretted her decision and tried to track her daughter down, but she did so only a few days before her daughter was reported missing.

Katherine Stone, author of the popular Postpartum Progress blog, says that while the idea of giving up a child for adoption because of symptoms of PPD is rare, it’s not the first time she’s heard this story:

Stone writes in her blog that she’s heard stories from 3 or 4 over the years she’s been working in the field who felt like their illness gave them no option but to give over their child. Sadly, and understandably, for these women when their symptoms lift, they deeply regret the decision. A mom even commented on Stone’s blog that her doctor suggested she give up her third child for adoption after recovering from PPD with her second child.

The Time article on Zahra’s case profiled what sounds like an amazing and unique treatment center for women with postpartum depression. The Perinatal Mood Disorders Inpatient Program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is the only inpatient unit in the country for women with PPD.

It’s a place where pregnant and postpartum moms with severe mood symptoms can go, where doctors are very sensitive about prescribing antidepressants that could be a bad mix with nursing, babies are allowed to visit, and the treatment focuses on bonding, anxiety reduction and practices like yoga.

Amazing. If only treatment was more widely available and so comprehensive for all moms with postpartum depression.

Image: flickr/theogeo

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About Heather Turgeon

heatherturgeon

Heather Turgeon

Heather Turgeon is currently writing the book The Happy Sleeper (Penguin, 2014). She's a therapist-turned-writer who authors the Science of Kids column for Babble. A northeasterner at heart, Heather lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two little ones. Read bio and latest posts → Read Heather's latest posts →

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0 thoughts on “Mom Gives Up Baby Due To Postpartum Depression

  1. MsFortune says:

    The fact that we even care about a woman breastfeeding in face of PPD shows how messed up our priorities are. That this is even a factor blows my mind.

  2. heatherturgeon says:

    MsFortune, I think the idea was that doctors would be sensitive to this if it was important to the woman.

  3. Karen says:

    Comments
    We need more treatment centers. We also need more and better support groups. If I could recommend one thing, look out for @MotherWoman on twitter/facebook. This support group training model is receiving accolades from experts from Postpartum Support International. It works. It can be duplicated. It is achievable.

  4. Mbaker says:

    MsFortune….

    I suffered from PPD and saw a psychiatrist who specialized in it. She knew that nursing was important to me and that if I had had to give it up during treatment that I would have felt like even more of a failure than I already felt like i was so she did what she could to support my efforts. Luckily I was able to work my way out of PPD and nursed until my son was 15 months.

  5. Liz Friedman says:

    I deeply appreciate the final summation of this article: If only treatment was more widely available and so comprehensive for all moms with postpartum depression. The death of Zahra is a tragedy and a wake up call for us to provide the resources and supports that all mothers deserve and desperately need when postpartum emotional crisis occurs. One is eight mothers experiences postpartum depression yet we do not screen for ppd regularly, nor do we provide appropriate care, treatment and education. This must change. I am Program Director and Founder of the Postpartum Support Initiative of MotherWoman. This is exactly what we do and what we advocate for. In addition to mothers need medical care and support at home, moms benefit immensely from participation in support groups. Go to postpartum.net to find a support group near you and go to http://www.motherwoman.org for Support Group Facilitator Training if you are interested in starting a group in your area.

  6. MJ says:

    Ms.Fortune, a mom who breastfeeds has a less likely chance of suffering from PPD, perhaps before making broad assumptions on people’s motives, you should look into things.
    Breastfeeding moms produce Oxytocin, it helps with PPD.

  7. MJ says:

    Oh, and many anti depressants can be taken while nursing, doctors need to inform themselves better.
    PPD is very real and very serious.

  8. Marj says:

    Actually before I had my twins I would have agreed with MsFortune. But right after my twins were born, I cried at the idea that I would have to stop breastfeeding my twins. I only breastfed for two months, but the time was special to me and giving it up was a hard, emotional decision. The first time it was suggested I give it up I was not ready and the thought made me hysterical. Maybe that kind of freaking out was just an indicator of the stress I was under, but a doctor who was sensitive to that would have be appreciated. Not that mine weren’t.

  9. Rosana says:

    MsFortune, Nursing their babies is suggested to women that already suffer from depression because in some cases it helps minimize the symptoms of PPD.

  10. Geigerin says:

    I had severe PPD after the birth of our daughter. I wanted to give up our baby, our dog, and our cats. I daydreamed about running off to Fiji, and the fights I had with my spouse because he was just trying to be funny were awful. For the first time in my life, I even contemplated suicide.

    Breastfeeding my babe is one of the most important things I did to ensure a healthy bond and to get past PPD. I took antidepressants and a stack of vitamins, too. I firmly believe that I needed all three approaches to get past those very dark days.

    I also know a woman who gave her child up for adoption, out of the blue, recently. She wouldn’t go into detail, but her spouse is currently deployed, and she didn’t have a support network. I suspect this may not be uncommon.

  11. Samantha @ FreshSamantha.Org says:

    I am currently in treatment for severe post-partum depression and anxiety and most days, breastfeeding is the only thing that tethers me to my daughter. For me, giving it up would make it easier to continue into deeper unhappiness and denial. I will say I am disgusted about the lack of support for PPD/A and how insurance gives an arbitrary time limit on when you’ll be better.

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