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Why Do Moms Kill their Kids?

Mother DrivingOne night not all that long ago, a mother in Newburgh, NY, drove herself and her four children into the Hudson River. Her eldest son escaped and ran to get help, but the woman and her three younger children drowned. The tragedy brings to mind similar cases -- Susan Smith in 1994, Andrea Yates in 2001.

What leads a parent to kill their own child? Dr. Phillip Resnick, a leading expert on the subject, says there are several circumstances under which a parent might feel driven to it.

According to Resnick, as reported by Time Magazine:

"The first is 'altruistic.' The classic case is the mother who plans to take her own life and believes that the children are better off in heaven with her. Number two is the case in which the parent is acutely psychotic. The third type is fatal battering ... The fourth is an unwanted baby, for example an infant born out of wedlock. The final category is spousal revenge, typically after infidelity."

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

Sadly, cases of moms killing their kids are not unheard of, and in fact are being regularly reported in the United States.

As Time reported, there was Andrea Yates who drowned her five children at home in 2001, Susan Smith who drowned her two sons in 1994, Julie Powers Schenecker who shot and killed her two children earlier this year, and then this latest tale of tragedy involving Lashanda Armstrong, who drowned three of her four children this month.

Was a History of Domestic Abuse, Stress and Postpartum Depression to Blame?

Media descriptions of Armstrong paint a picture of an overwhelmed single mother, possibly suffering from postpartum depression, who had just filed a restraining order against the father of her children, with whom she had a history of domestic problems.

The stress may have driven her over the edge, as it threatened to do to Daleen Berry, a woman who was in a similar situation and described her own intent to kill her children in this article on Yahoo News. Or she may have been going through one of the five circumstances noted above, which Dr. Phillip Resnick, a leading expert on parents who kill their children, told Time magazine are among the most common driving forces.

Perhaps she planned to commit suicide and believed her children would be better off dying with her. Or she wanted to exact revenge on her boyfriend, or may have been suffering from a form of psychosis.

Sadly no one will ever know for sure, but one contributing factor that should always be considered in cases of extreme violence such as this is whether or not the mother was taking any medications, specifically antidepressant drugs.

Were Antidepressants Involved?

Antidepressant drugs have been shown to CAUSE both suicidal and homicidal thoughts and behaviors. Seven out of the last 12 school shootings were actually done by children who were either on antidepressants, or going through withdrawal.

In fact those taking antidepressants are twice as likely to commit suicide than those that are not taking them.

It's unclear whether or not Armstrong was taking any type of mind-altering drugs, but it's well known that Andrea Yates was. She was reportedly prescribed four extremely potent mind-altering drugs for depression, including:

  • Haldol, an antipsychotic most often used to treat schizophrenia
  • Effexor, an antidepressant very similar to SSRIs
  • Wellbutrin, another antidepressant

Psychiatrist Peter Breggin, a court-qualified medical expert, reportedly stated that:

"The mixture of Haldol, Wellbutrin and Effexor is unpredictable in its effects. Haldol actually can cause depression, and putting the three drugs together is somewhat experimental."

In another case, a jury ruled that the antidepressant Paxil caused Donald Schell to shoot and kill his wife, daughter and granddaughter. The jury found that the drug maker held 80 percent fault in the crime and his surviving family received $8 million in damages.

So when we hear of tragedies like the case of Andrea Yates or Lashanda Armstrong, it needs to be clarified whether any drugs they were taking played a roll in their actions. As reported in this Insight Magazine article, we need to be asking:

"Were these the actions of a severely depressed woman who "lost it," or did the mind-altering drugs push this emotionally distraught woman over the edge? Should the latter be established in the criminal court, it could raise an even greater issue: Who was responsible? Was it a chemically poisoned mother who carried out the crazed act, the physician who prescribed the mind-altering cocktails or the pharmaceutical companies that manufactured and marketed the treatment?"

Possible Hormone Connection

There are a number of reports that suggest progesterone may be related to postpartum depression.

Levels of the hormones estrogen, progesterone, and cortisol all drop dramatically after a woman gives birth, and an estimated 85 percent experience some type of mood disturbances during the first days and weeks that follow.

For about 15 percent of women, that mood disturbance continues on and becomes full-blown postpartum depression, which can cause suicidal thoughts, and recurrent thoughts of death, as well as intense sadness, anxiety and despair that can put the mother and infant at risk.

Because progesterone levels rise throughout pregnancy and fall rapidly after birth, it's been suggested that this sudden drop could be a cause of postpartum depression. According to a study in the British Medical Journal, development of "maternity blues" was associated with high prenatal progesterone concentrations, low postnatal concentrations, and a steep fall in concentration after delivery.

The researchers noted:

"It may be possible to attenuate maternity blues by treating mothers with progesterone."

If you choose to use progesterone, make sure it is bioidentical and make sure that you use it properly. It really should not be swallowed but applied topically. However, ideally it should only be applied to mucosal areas like the vaginal or rectal area.

I have updated an extensive report on progesterone that goes into far more details.

+ Sources and References