Postpartum Syndromes and the Legal System

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Postpartum syndromes are inconsistently acknowledged by the psychological and medical communities, resulting in a lack of definitive criteria for diagnosis. This lack of clarity can affect legal processes, particularly in criminal courts. In this chapter the current and historical status of postpartum diagnoses is examined, particularly as it relates to the admission of postpartum syndromes into evidence in criminal and civil courts. The authors of this chapter assert that gender inequality and cultural expectations of “good” women and mothers affect reactions to the use of postpartum syndromes in court processes. The politics of gender are addressed and solutions are offered for assisting, rather than pathologizing, women with postpartum syndromes.


This chapter was also published in the 3rd Edition (2003) and 4th Edition (2007) of It's a Crime: Women and Justice.

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