Unless you’re Tom Cruise, you probably have some sense that postpartum depression is very real and moms could use a heck of a lot more support.
A bill winding its way through both houses of Congress could finally make postpartum depression awareness a priority in the country, along with making it easier for mothers to apply for and access treatment.
The Melanie Blocker Stokes Act, named for a new mother who took her life eight years ago, was introduced in the House of Representatives last year but floundered. Now it’s back, with bills reintroduced in the House AND the Senate in 2009. According to a group stumping for supporters who will write to their Congressman begging for passage, the act “would mandate research on the benefits of screening for PPD, and it would also create programs to deliver outpatient, inpatient and home-based health and support services, including services that would promote earlier diagnosis and treatment.”
Estimates put the numbers of women who suffer from postpartum depression at one in ten, but as this post from the Perinatal Pro blog correctly points out, women are often hesitant to ask for help – as much because they don’t understand the true symptoms as because of a fear of looking like a bad mother. Less than two tenths of a percent of women suffer from a postpartum psychosis (think Susan Smith or Andrea Yates), but because of the intense media attention, many women think their symptoms have to be that extreme to be diagnosed with PPD.
In reality, the symptoms can be as simple as an inability to sleep even when the baby is sleeping, uncontrollable crying, massive changes in appetite or feelings of guilt. They sound like the symptoms of a lot of new moms – the issue is the degree to which they appear. Women need to know there’s a way out – and getting proper treatment and support services is a big part of that. Take it from a mom who knows.
Want to help get it passed? All it takes is your name, address and zip code, and the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance will send an e-mail directly to your Congressman asking him or her to vote yes on this bill.