What the Postpartum Depression Act Means for Mothers

postpartum depression

For many moms with newborns, postpartum depression is a very real concern. The time after having a baby can be a very confusing time and it's hard to know what's "normal" as a new mom. Unfortunately, even though postpartum depression is actually pretty common, with around 10 percent of mothers experiencing the mental health disorder, it's still not managed in a comprehensive manner in the medical community. Many mothers slip through the cracks and do not receive the treatment they need to get better, which is why the new postpartum depression bill is important.

What Is Postpartum Depression?

Although it's normal to go through a transition period of having some "baby blues" in the first few weeks after having a baby, any feelings of depression, mood swings, or irritability and anxiety that interfere with a woman's daily life beyond six weeks postpartum are not normal.

Postpartum depression can take many many forms, with more mild symptoms such as lethargy and fatigue to full-blown postpartum psychosis, in which a mother may have hallucinations and stop sleeping. Some forms of postpartum depression are not typical either and instead may look like anxiety or agitation. The bottom line is, is that any changes in behavior and mood that are affecting your daily life after having a baby may be a sign of postpartum depression.

There Are No National Screening Guidelines for Postpartum Depression

Even though we know a lot more about postpartum depression and how it can affect new mothers, there aren't any national screening guidelines for the disorder. Which means that doctors and other medical care providers who care for women after their pregnancies don't receive standardized training on how to recognize and treat postpartum depression.

This is unfortunate and frankly, a little scary because most women only see their doctors once or twice after having a baby—and we all know what the focus of that six-week check-up usually is about. So there aren't a lot of opportunities that women are getting to really talk extensively with their doctors about how they are feeling and handling life after a baby. 

Even if a woman is able to express her concerns to her doctor, there is no guarantee that a doctor will make sure that she gets the help she needs promptly, either. Not all doctors treat postpartum depression the same way and not all have access to the resources to treat the disorder, so again, a woman may slip completely through the medical system cracks. 

The Postpartum Depression Bill

With all we know about postpartum depression, including the fact that we need more standardized screening and care for the disorder, a new bill, aptly titled, "Bringing Postpartum Depression Out of the Shadows Act of 2015" was just passed that may help.

The bill will bring vital funding to give state health programs the opportunity to create screening and treatment programs for all moms who have given birth and up through their baby's first year of life. Introduced by Rep. Katherine M. Clark, the act has already passed in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Clark was inspired by some of the work done in Massachusetts with their Child Psychiatry Access Project.

She believes that the bill is incredibly important because currently, one in seven women will have postpartum depression, but only 15 percent of them will actually get treated.

Hopefully, this act will become law and start the process of creating more screening programs and treatment options for mothers after having a baby, so that no mother falls through the cracks and gets missed if she is suffering from postpartum depression. 

What to Do If You Suspect You Have Postpartum Depression

While we wait for a day when postpartum depression screening and treatment is totally routine, as it should be, if you suspect you have postpartum depression, please do not hesitate to get the help that you need. If you are one of the 400,000 women that will be diagnosed with postpartum depression this year in the United States alone, please talk to your doctor or call a hotline that can connect you with resources in your area.

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