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Postpartum Depression as a New Defense

Postpartum disorders have in recent years gained attention in the medical community and in popular culture.

By Attorney Elisabeth K.H. Pasqualini, Child Abuse Defense Lawyer, Harrisburg, PA

For most women, the pain of childbirth is rewarded with the delight of parenting an infant. For a significant percentage of young mothers, the pleasure does not arrive. Instead, postpartum depression (PPD) or postpartum psychosis (PPP) is the debilitating accompaniment of what usually is called a bundle of joy. A small number of such mothers under the overwhelming stress of caring for the infant and their postpartum illnesses commit horrible crimes.

PPD is “identified by its cluster of symptoms, their severity and the time of onset. … Any one case of postpartum depression can include symptoms from any combination of four subgroups: depression, anxiety, panic disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder, each of which has its own different assortment of symptoms. Depression is not always a component.” Recovery with treatment can take six to 12 months. Without treatment, one-quarter of women sufferers will not recover. Dr. Susan Benjamin Feingold, Happy Endings, New Beginnings: Navigating Postpartum Disorders (2015).

PPP, the most severe of the postpartum disorders, is an actual psychotic state associated with pregnancy and/or birth. It occurs in one or two of each 1,000 births. “It [postpartum psychosis] comes on very quickly usually, and often has been associated with bipolar disorder.” Those mothers suffer a chemical imbalance that often causes them to have delusions. “A woman in a psychotic state should be in a hospital. …Their thinking is impaired. Their judgment is impaired.” Dr. Susan Benjamin Feingold, as quoted in the Chicago Tribune, Jan. 9, 2013.

The first law in the United States specifically establishing the mitigating factor of PPP and PPD, Illinois’ Public Act 100-0574, was signed by the governor on Jan. 8, 2018. While the law is limited in its scope (when compared to laws in other countries), it is a breakthrough that deserves to be the stepping stone for similar or broader laws throughout the United States.

The new Illinois Law amends the Post Conviction Act in that state to allow for such consideration for either PPD or PPP existence after the fact of the conviction.

If you’re facing charges of child abuse, infanticide or aggravated assault, do not subject yourself to police interrogation without discussing your matter with a lawyer first. You may need to be psychiatrically evaluated first. Contact us for a free consultation.