State Bill Could Protect Mothers in Philadelphia from Postpartum Depression

A bill that is currently working its way through the Pennsylvania legislature is one part of an ongoing effort to protect pregnant women, new mothers, and their children from the pain and possible long-term damage that can result from depression.

In May 2016, two Pennsylvania state senators, Judy Schwank and Camera Bartolotta, introduced Senate Bill 1269, which, if passed into law, will add postpartum depression (PPD) to a list of pregnancy-related conditions that qualify women to receive state-funded assessment, tracking, and early intervention services.

Sen. Schwank is a Democrat who represents Pennsylvania’s 11th Senatorial District, and Sen. Bartolotta is a Republican who represents Pennsylvania’s 46th Senatorial District. The bipartisan sponsorship of SB 1269 is an indicator that, even in today’s strongly divisive political environment, lawmakers from both parties recognize the importance of providing care for women who are at risk for an issue as serious as postpartum depression.

May 17, 2016 news release that announced the senators’ introduction of the new legislation also included the following facts about postpartum depression:

  • According to the American Psychological Association, about 15 percent of new mothers, or about one in seven women, experience symptoms that are consistent with a diagnosis of postpartum depression.
  • Experts estimate that about 21,000 mothers and babies in Pennsylvania suffer from postpartum depression each year.
  • Postpartum depression has been linked to problems with the infants’ cognitive development.
  • Children of mothers who suffer from postpartum depression are at increased risk for abuse and neglect.

The screenings and other services in the legislation, Sen. Bartolotta said in an interview with WESA, a Pennsylvania-based National Public Radio station, will address immediate concerns and prevent future problems.

“[With the screening] a mom’s a lot more ready and able to say, ‘You know, yeah. I do have those symptoms. Is this normal? I thought it was just me,’” Sen. Bartolotta said. “It will identify an issue before there is a great need for therapy, for intervention.”

About Postpartum Depression

As its name suggests, postpartum depression is a type of depressive disorder that affects women in the aftermath of having given birth. The clinical term for this disorder, as established by the American Psychiatric Association in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) is major depressive disorder with peripartum onset.

According to the DSM-5, a woman meets the criteria for a diagnosis of major depressive disorder with peripartum onset if she begins to experience symptoms either during pregnancy or within four weeks following the birth of her child. In non-clinical settings, depression that a woman experiences during pregnancy is often referred to as antepartum depression.

On Aug. 8, 2016, an article on the website of Philadelphia’s CBS affiliate called attention to the problem of depression during pregnancy. In that article, Dr. David Jaspan, Chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Einstein Healthcare Network, advised women not to ignore the signs and symptoms of depression, and called on women who experience such struggles during pregnancy to discuss the problem with their doctor.

Help for Depression During or After Pregnancy

Any woman who experiences symptoms of a depressive disorder during or after a pregnancy should not hesitate to get the professional help that can prevent her or her loved one from experiencing the immediate and long-term harm that can result from untreated depression.

In the Philadelphia area, a host of treatment opportunities, including inpatient and outpatient care, are available for women who are struggling with antepartum or postpartum depression. When a woman gets the care that she needs for antepartum depression, postpartum depression, or any other depressive disorder, she improves her ability to live a healthier and more productive life, and also ensures that her child is best prepared to experience continued healthy development.

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