Postpartum psychosis: The case of a mother who dumped her baby in a toilet

Uwamahoro holds her baby at Kabgayi District Hospital. Marie Anne Dushimimana.

Last month a mother dumped her new-born baby into a pit latrine at Kabgayi District Hospital.

Fortunately, the baby was pulled out alive and is currently being treated at the hospital.

The baby’s mother, Angelique Uwamahoro from Cyeza sector in Muhanga District, was transferred to Kabgayi District hospital to deliver her first child after five years of marriage.

For Uwamahoro’s mother, Goreth Nyiransabimana, the baby was a miracle and the family was very happy to warmly receive this new baby girl.

“We prayed a lot so that my daughter gets a baby like her other siblings. We had consulted churches and traditional healers for my daughter and this was the moment to rejoice, until things turned bad,” she narrated.

It was about 5am, on January 6, when Nyiransabimana who was looking after her daughter went out for a short call, only to find out a crowd gathered around the toilets.

“I found a group of women holding pieces of clothes, saying that my daughter upon seeing them had run away,” she narrated.

When she went back into the pavilion, she realised that her daughter and the baby were missing.

“She (Uwamahoro) returned a few minutes later without the baby…it was scandalous. At first, she refused to accept that she took the baby, but later on admitted to selling the baby to a one Claudine,” she said.

According to Nyiransabimana, Uwamahoro explained to them Claudine, who no one knew, came and told her to bring the baby to the toilet.

Suddenly, one person came and told them that she had heard a baby crying in the toilet.

Celine Uwera the head of neonatology at Kabgayi District hospital said that together with the Police, they managed to pull the baby out of the toilet at 11am, around seven hours after the incident.

She added that the baby is in safe hands now, and that they brought her mother to breastfeed her.

“Pediatricians at the hospital monitor her health daily and sometimes have to call on other experts when they need additional support like now, when she is receiving treatment for her eyes,” she said.

Mental health problem

Jean Felix Gwaneza a psychologist in the department of Mental Health Service at Kabgayi District Hospital revealed that Uwamahoro showed symptoms of a mental health illness, known as Postpartum Psychosis.

Postpartum Psychosis, although a serious mental health illness, is a rare condition, that can affect a woman soon after she gives birth. It is also known as puerperal psychosis or postnatal psychosis.

Gwaneza noted that it is a serious mental illness and should be treated as a medical emergency. Symptoms usually start suddenly within the first two weeks after giving birth. More rarely, they can develop several weeks after the baby is born.

He added that symptoms can include hallucinations, delusions or thoughts or beliefs that are unlikely to be true, talking and thinking too much or too quickly and feeling “high” or “on top of the world.”

The condition may also include showing signs of depression, being withdrawn or tearful, lacking energy, having loss of appetite, anxiety or trouble sleeping.

Gwaneza said that the poor conditions, in which a mother lived in especially during the pregnancy is the major cause to the problem.

“For example, asking herself how she is going to raise the baby in poverty, or just being mistreated when she was pregnant…all of these social conditions can cause postpartum psychosis,” he said.

Uwamahoro is under the guidance of Rwanda Investigation Bureau as a way of helping the baby recover and enable Uwamahoro receive the necessary treatment.

“We are trying to treat her and she is improving now. We also have another option to transfer her to Ndera Psychiatric Hospital for further help if her status doesn’t improve. For now, she is not in the right condition to take care of her baby,” he said.

Rwanda Investigation Bureau is however still investigating the matter.

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