‘Red flags’ missed in case of troubled mother who killed her six-month-old son while battling postpartum depression
- Alyssa Nguyen’s postpartum depression should have been treated sooner
- New mom saw 10 different health workers leading up to the incident
- Answered “no” when asked if she wanted to harm herself or her son
- Nguyen stuffed toys down her baby’s throat and killed him in 2022
- Lifeline 13 11 14 beyondblue 1300 224 636
Within five days of giving birth to her first child, Alyssa Nguyen began showing “red flag” symptoms of postpartum depression and anxiety.
She did everything she could to help herself and went to 10 different health professionals.
After six months of suffering, believing she couldn’t be the perfect mother for her newborn son, she took baby Spencer’s life.
On May 20, 2022, Nguyen used parts of the six-month-old boy’s toys and stuffed them down his throat, causing him to suffocate and die.
Nguyen then attempted suicide.
Alyssa Nguyen (pictured, left) went to psychologists, family doctors and went to the hospital to get help after experiencing tremors during a period of postpartum depression
Nguyen used parts of her baby boy Spencer’s toys and stuffed them down his throat, causing the baby (pictured) to suffocate and die on May 20, 2022
Her husband, Ben Recto, found them lying in the couple’s bedroom when he came home from work.
Nguyen, from Mernda in northeastern Melbourne, was taken to hospital and spent weeks recovering from her injuries.
A suicide note she left behind was read to the Supreme Court on Friday, as she had been convicted of infanticide and released on a three-year good behavior bail.
The 37-year-old described her mental health struggles in the letter and asked to be buried with her son.
“This battle with postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety is so real, it’s been six months now and it’s getting worse,” she wrote.
Nguyen was once a bubbly, kind person who changed dramatically after Spencer’s birth.
She strived for perfection as a mother, but felt overwhelmed and helpless.
Nguyen knew she needed help and took herself to psychologists, GPs and to the hospital after experiencing tremors.
Several health workers asked her if she wanted to harm herself or her son, and she replied no.
Judge Lex Lasry was critical of those professionals’ confidence in Nguyen’s self-assessments.
“Your assessment of yourself should not have been relied upon,” he said.
“There were other clinical signs that indicated you were at significant risk.”
Nguyen didn’t get the mental health care she needed until after her son died, when she was admitted to a hospital psychiatric ward.
Her family wants to make sure their heartbreaking experience will shed light on a broken healthcare system.
“They want Spencer’s death to be a learning experience for the health care system, that women are vulnerable after giving birth and that this was a tragedy that could have been avoided,” said the family’s attorney, Ruth Parker.
“She sought help … and the system isn’t equipped and isn’t ready to provide the kind of help she needed.”
Her husband, Ben Recto, hopes their experience will lead to greater awareness of the damage caused by improperly treated postpartum depression
Mr. Recto hopes their experience will lead to greater awareness of the damage caused by improperly treated postpartum depression.
“I don’t want Spencer’s passing to be an important lesson for families and the system,” he said in a statement to the court.
“We went through the loss of our first child and I really want to raise awareness so that there is more support for families and new mothers.”
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