Landmark Postpartum Depression Legislation Introduced In New York State

Thomas P. Morahan

May 18, 2006

Legislation requiring health care professionals providing postnatal care to screen new mothers for postpartum depression, and requiring health care professionals who provide prenatal care to educate women and their families about the disorder was introduced in the New York State Senate today. State Senator Thomas P. Morahan ,who chairs the Senate Mental Health Committee made the announcement at a press conference, surrounded by scores of women and healthcare professionals attending a National Women's Health Week Screening Fair at the Palisades Center in West Nyack, New York.

"The birth of a child is a time for celebration. However postpartum depression affects 10-15% of women any time from a month to a year after childbirth," Morahan said. "This new bill will make postpartum depression screening a requirement rather than an option, and that’s a significant and positive step for New York's mothers, newborns and families."

The new legislation:

Requires physicians/nurse midwives/other licensed professionals proving prenatal care to women to educate them on postpartum depression.

All birthing facilities in the state to provide departing new mothers and fathers information on postpartum depression and methods of coping and treatment resources.

Physicians/nurse midwives/ and other licensed professionals to screen new mothers for postpartum depression prior to discharge and at the first few postnatal check up visits.

Physicians/nurse midwives/ and other licensed professionals to provide prenatal and postnatal care to women which shall include fathers and other family members in both the education and the treatment process to help them better understand the nature and causes of post partum depression to overcome the spillover effect of the illness, and improve their ability to be supportive of the mother

Actress Brooke Shields recently gave a compellingly candid public account of her experience with postpartum depression following the birth of her daughter. When actor Tom Cruise publicly criticized her course of treatment, psychiatrists seized the opportunity to offset the stigma and misconceptions associated with this illness.

The legislation would increase the likelihood that new mothers suffering from postpartum depression would get appropriate treatment and will be able to overcome its effects.