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A Mother's Insanity

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Why would a mother murder her child?

Otty Sanchez

Dr. Michelle Golland: On Sunday morning, July 26th, the police arrived at the house of Otty Sanchez, 33, and found the mutilated body of her 3-week-old infant son, Scott. He had been decapitated, and the police believe some body parts had been consumed by Otty Sanchez. When the police arrived, they found the mother sitting on the sofa, crying. She had apparently tried to kill herself as well. In the week prior, she had broken up with the baby's father. Her family has reported that she had been diagnosed with schizophrenia earlier in life, and was currently suffering from postpartum psychosis after the birth of her son.

This horrific incident reminded me of the case of Andrea Yates, who killed her five young children in June 2001 by drowning them in the bathtub in her house. She had been suffering from severe postpartum depression and psychosis.

Postpartum psychosis is one of the most extreme postpartum mood disorders. Basically, it is when a woman who recently delivered a baby loses touch with reality. It affects between one and two women per 1,000 women who give birth.

The problem is that fewer than 20% of women share with their doctor that they are experiencing psychotic symptoms, and are often misdiagnosed with depression and subsequently given the wrong medication. Women who receive the correct diagnosis and treatment often experience postpartum depression before completely recovering. Postpartum psychosis has a 5% suicide rate and a 4% infanticide rate.

Signs of Postpartum Psychosis
Symptoms usually occur within the first two to three weeks after delivery, but can happen anytime within the first three months after giving birth. The symptoms seem to come on suddenly, and in 80% of cases, happen three to fourteen days after being symptom-free.
Signs include:

• Hallucinations
• Delusions
• Illogical thoughts
• Refusing to eat
• Insomnia
• Extreme feelings of anxiety and agitation
• Periods of delirium or mania
• Suicidal or homicidal thoughts

Who Is at Risk?
Women who have been diagnosed with psychosis, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia are at greater risk. Also, women with a family history of any of the above disorders have a higher risk. If a woman has had a past incident of postpartum psychosis, she is between 20-50% more likely to have another incident with her future pregnancies.

Causes of Postpartum Psychosis
There are a variety of factors that contribute to postpartum psychosis. The most important one is the mother's changing hormones after delivery of her child. Other issues seem to be lack of social support and emotional support. A mother's sense of low self-esteem, financial issues, and other major life changes such as moving or starting a new job may also increase chances of a psychotic break.

There should be a multidisciplinary response to postpartum psychosis. Antipsychotic medication is typically used, as well as anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication. This disorder must be treated as a medical emergency, and treated with immediate attention by the father and the extended family. The mother may need to be hospitalized and/or separated from her child during the most critical time. The mother should also receive traditional talk therapy and possibly join a support group to deal with the emotional fallout from the postpartum psychotic episode. With effective and quick treatment, most women recover from their disorder.

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10 comments so far | Post a comment now
Anonymous July 31, 2009, 5:25 PM

Soo Disturbing. That poor baby. I don’t see ‘post-partum’ depression as an excuse. Maybe because I have never had it. I don’t know. I just could never imagine hurting a helpless baby like that. This thing called a mother deserves to have the same done to her.

Natalie July 31, 2009, 7:40 PM

Anonymous, it’s not post partum depression, it’s psychosis which is VERY different. If you read the whole story, you would understand. Stories like this really disturb me, and I try not to read them, but I can’t get over the fact that this mother did that to her poor baby. It’s sad that she couldn’t get treatment before this happened.

Secret Mommy July 31, 2009, 7:47 PM

This makes me so sick. It seems extra awful to me that her family knew of her condition. Then how could this have happened? I like that the doctor mentions here in her story that the father and family need to give “immediate attention” to any such situation. To leave a baby in such a dangerous situation is unthinkable…

RosieCee July 31, 2009, 8:15 PM

Perhaps this woman was given an antidepressant and became psychotic from the antidepressant.

The Physicians Desk Reference states that SSRI antidepressants and all antidepressants can cause mania, psychosis, abnormal thinking, paranoia, hostility, etc.

Go to where there are over 3,200 cases, with the full media article available, involving bizarre murders, suicides, school shootings [48 of these] and murder-suicides - all of which involve SSRI antidepressants like Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, etc, . The media article usually tells which SSRI antidepressant the perpetrator was taking or had been using.

get real July 31, 2009, 11:46 PM

People like this can have children and Gays couples still can not adopt legally in some state…Ridiculous

Rebecca August 1, 2009, 1:47 AM

This happened “right in my backyard”, that is in San Antonio,TX.IMHO I say if the Schizo defense sets her to mommy daycare as opposed to jail,than all the other murders of children who suffer from schizo should have the same slap on the wrist.
-Just in- A woman in Maryland has a false pregnancy and shows up with another’s baby cut right out from a woman’s womb.Real mom found murdered-RoadRunner online.
No mommy mental hospital daycare for these women;equal crimes,equal jail time. Please people,no more Caylee Anthonys or Sandra Cantus it makes us look bad :(

Kristen August 1, 2009, 7:01 AM

I read the cnn version of this story and apparently this mother had been acting irrational for a few days AND had asked others for help. If she truly does have schizophrenia then I hope she can spend the rest of her life in a mental facility like andrea yates is doing. I am also appalled that the family would leave her alone with a baby KNOWING that she had such an extreme mental condition, what family does that?

Gigohead  August 3, 2009, 9:57 AM

This woman clearly is mentally ill and jail won’t help so it’s best that she spends her term in a mental facility. Shame on the father, another, mental case, who impregnanted this woman. He’s mentally ill too, go figure!!

My SIL is mentally ill too and the city was smart in sending someone to monitor the baby with round the clock care. Wonder why this wasn’t the case here. Could have kept this baby alive that’s for sure!

mercaties August 3, 2009, 9:27 PM

I’m surprised that so many of you almost seem to have sympathy for her because she has post pardum psychosis. So WHAT I don’t Care what this woman has she DECAPITAED AND ATE part of a three week old infant. This woman deserves the death penalty why the hell do we need crazy people like this on our planet for. This has got to be one of the most disgusting cases I have ever heard of.

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