QU grad accused of murder – what is postpartum psychosis?

Katie Langley, News Editor

Quinnipiac University graduate Lindsay Clancy, 32, of Duxbury, Massachusetts, is accused of killing her three children by strangulation on Jan. 24 before attempting suicide. While prosecutors are claiming that Clancy planned the murders, her defense argued that she was suffering from postpartum psychosis at the time of the murders, according to her arraignment on Feb. 7.

The case has sparked a conversation on social media apps like TikTok and Instagram, with some users expressing support for those who suffer from postpartum mental health conditions. 

Clancy pleaded not guilty to two counts of murder, three counts of strangulation or suffocation and three counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, according to the arraignment recording.

Due to the injuries Clancy sustained during her attempted suicide, she is paralyzed from the waist down and is currently in a Boston hospital awaiting discharge to a recovery facility.

Plymouth District Court Judge John Canavan III ordered during the arraignment that Clancy will remain in medical care rather than being held in jail or released on bail before trial as long as she still requires care.

Her children, Cora, 5, and Dawson, 3, were declared dead on Jan. 24, while 8-month-old Callan died at the hospital days later, Plymouth County, Massachusetts Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Sprague said during the arraignment.

Clancy graduated from Quinnipiac in 2012 with a degree in biology, Associate Vice President for Public Relations John Morgan confirmed. Clancy worked as a labor and delivery nurse in Massachusetts, according to CT Insider.

Clancy’s attorney, Kevin Reddington, said that Clancy was suffering from postpartum depression and/or psychosis at the time of the murders and was overmedicated on antidepressant medications after the birth of her son, Callan.

While postpartum depression results in feelings of sadness and hopelessness after the birth of a baby, postpartum psychosis is a more rare condition marked by dramatic mood changes, delusions and sometimes hallucinations, according to GoodRx Health

“This was not a situation, your honor, that was planned by any means,” Reddington said during the arraignment. “This was a situation that was clearly the product of mental illness.”

There’s a lot of stigma associated with mental health and seeking healthcare for it, but especially on new moms who are expected to be Instagram perfect as soon as the baby’s born

— Dr. Carla Schnitzlein, Hartford HealthCare psychiatrist

Reddington said that the healthcare system tends to “abandon” women with postpartum psychosis and depression.

“Our society fails miserably with treating women with postpartum depression or even postpartum psychosis,” Reddington said during the arraignment. “It’s medicate, medicate, medicate. Throw the pills at you, then see how it works.”

Some social media users shared posts encouraging awareness around postpartum illnesses. 

“The (Lindsay) Clancy case is so devastating,” User @heatheranmariee wrote on Twitter on Jan. 28. “Post partum depression was the worst thing I ever experienced in my life. I don’t wish it on anyone.”

Dr. Carla Schnitzlein, a psychiatrist at Hartford HealthCare, said that postpartum psychosis involves extreme hormonal changes triggered when some people give birth.

“After the birth of a baby, you have a loss in terms of touch with reality, and you can get hallucinations, delusions, there can be paranoia and behavior changes,” Schnitzlein said.

Schnitzlein, who specializes in gender health, said that harm to a child or oneself is rare in cases of postpartum psychosis, but possible in severe cases.

Schnitzlein said that postpartum depression occurs in approximately 10-15% of births, while postpartum psychosis occurs in about 0.002% of births.

“(The percentages are) probably an underreport because there’s a lot of stigma associated with mental health and seeking healthcare for it, but especially on new moms who are expected to be Instagram perfect as soon as the baby’s born, and there’s a fear of society judging them as maybe a weak mother,” Schnitzlein said.

Clancy had not previously been diagnosed or treated for postpartum psychosis, according to the prosecution. However, she was on multiple medications treating mental health and was previously hospitalized for mental health concerns. Clancy expressed suicidal and violent ideations towards her children in the past, Sprague said during the arraignment.

Schnitzlein, who could not comment on Clancy’s case specifically, said suspected postpartum psychosis should always be treated as a psychiatric emergency. Patients are generally evaluated, and cases of postpartum psychosis tend to be treated inpatient with a combination of medication and therapy, Schnitzlein said.

Risk factors that may increase someone’s chance of suffering from postpartum depression or psychosis are trauma such as domestic violence, poor neonatal outcomes and chronic sleep disturbances, according to Schnitzlein.

“There’s always a chance that (postpartum mental illness) can happen to anyone regardless of their risk factors,” Schnitzlein said.

The prosecution expressed a distinctly different view of Clancy’s case during the arraignment, alleging that Clancy was well aware of what she was doing and planned for her husband, Patrick Clancy, to be out of the house in order to kill the children.

“One of the first questions Lindsay Clancy asked was, ‘Do I need an attorney?,’” Sprague said. “She knew that she had murdered her children, and she had the clarity, focus and mental acumen to focus on protecting her own rights and interests.”

In a letter posted to a GoFundMe donation drive page supporting the Clancy family’s legal, medical and funeral expenses on Jan. 28, Patrick Clancy asked the public to forgive his wife.

“The real Lindsay was generously loving and caring towards everyone–me, our kids, family, friends, and her patients,” Patrick Clancy wrote. “The very fibers of her soul are loving. All I wish for her now is that she can somehow find peace.”

Patrick Clancy wrote that the pain of losing his three children is “excruciating and relentless.”

Schnitzlein said that anyone who is struggling after the birth of a child should seek medical help and can call the maternal health hotline at 1-833-HELP4MOMS.