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Bill Aims To Remove Stigma, Increase Care For Women With Postpartum Depression

Pennsylvania lawmakers have re-introduced a bill that would help the 10 to 15 percent of women who suffer from postpartum depression after giving birth.


Pennsylvania has a monitoring system in place for infants born with certain medical conditions or in dangerous environments, including spousal abuse or lead poisoning in the home. SB 200 would add postpartum depression to that list of conditions.


According to the National Institute of Mental Health, post-partum depression is typified by extreme sadness, anxiety and exhaustion. CDC statistics from 2011, the most recently available year, said more than 10 percent of Pennsylvania women reported feeling some kind of postpartum depression.


Pennsylvania Sen. Camera Bartolotta (R-Washington, Greene), one of the bill’s sponsors, said mothers suffering from postpartum depression can struggle to provide daily care for themselves or others, and that their children are at risk for abuse or neglect. She said early screening and identification could help reduce that risk, and save state resources in the process.


“To have OB/GYNs, physicians and pediatricians on alert to survey, to ask questions, and identify it early, we can save millions in services that we provide to children who are abused or neglected,” Bartolotta said.


Bartolotta, who has a degree in psychology, said that while society is warming up to the discussion on mental health, victims still feel reluctant to come forward.


“Because postpartum depression has got such a stigma, many moms won’t seek any kind of help for it,” Bartolotta said. “They’re embarrassed. But they need to understand that it’s treatable. It’s not abnormal.”


The proposed measure is an amendment to the Early Intervention Services System Act of 1990, which created the child monitoring system and currently sits in the Health and Human Services Committee.


Bartolotta said Congressman Tim Murphy’s Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act, which passed Congress last July, helped spotlight the issue. Murphy's bill included provisions such as Medicaid codification for inpatient mental health care.


Bartolotta will host a panel discussion on the new legislation on Thursday in Washington. The event will include community leaders and medical providers with expertise in women's health, perinatal care, psychiatry and family counseling.


(Photo: Charanjit Chana/Flickr)

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