HARLEM, Manhattan — It's a disturbing pattern that has detectives investigating, neighbors concerned, and experts advising pregnant women and teens to get help.
For the third time in less than a week, including twice in eight hours on Thursday, fetuses have been thrown away by their mothers. Two of the lifeless remains were left in the trash, and one was found at a sewage treatment plant here.
"It's just sad," said Lismary Alvarado. "It breaks my heart to see that something like that could happen."
The mother of two was pushing her youngest child, Dylan, four months old, in his stroller, in front of some trash cans and trash bags on the sidewalk at 1457 Amsterdam Avenue, near 131st Street.
There, on Thursday afternoon, police found a fetus in the trash that had been left by a 23-year-old woman. She had gone to Bellevue Hospital around 3:30 p.m., showing signs of trauma associated with childbirth.
The woman allegedly told police the general location of the fetus, and police found the remains in the trash.
"It's scary," said Alvarado, a nearby resident, as she stood in front of the trash cans where the fetus had been found. "Why would you even have the thought to drop your baby anywhere?" she asked.
The scene was just eight blocks from a sewage treatment facility at 135th Street near 12th Avenue, under Riverbank State Park. There, around 11:40 p.m. Thursday night, a worker spotted a fetus in the sewage. It's not clear where the tiny human remains came from.
Both cases come two days after a 23-year-old woman had gone to Jamaica Hospital in Queens with severe abdominal pain, and told doctors she had thrown out her fetus in the trash. The remains have not been recovered.
Charges have not yet been filed in any of the instances.
"Getting pregnant is so overwhelming, but it doesn't need to be," said Dr. Jodi Gold, a published psychiatrist specializing in women's and children's issues, and the director of the Gold Center for Mind Health and Wellness.
Dr. Gold said that depression occurs during roughly 20 percent of pregnancies. Expectant mothers in their teens and early 20s, particularly if they don't have support from family or a broader community, are particularly vulnerable, she said.
However, there are many resources to help, said Dr. Gold. "Almost all the services I'm talking about are free of charge," she told PIX11 News.
A long list of free or low-cost services for women who have lost pregnancies, expectant mothers, and new mothers across the five boroughs can be found here.
Also, in New York, the Abandoned Infant Protection Act allows a parent to abandon a newborn baby up to 30 days of age anonymously and without fear of prosecution if the baby is abandoned in a safe manner, according the state website.