Senate Mental Health Chair Urges State Law Mandating Postpartum Screening

Thomas P. Morahan

December 11, 2006

The Chairman of the New York State Senate Committee on Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities, Senator Thomas P. Morahan, joined by Dr. Nicholas Klein, M.D., Director of Nyack Hospital's Maternity Center, one of the busiest maternity centers in the Hudson Valley, as well as Dr. Karen Oates, an expert on mental health disorders held a press conference at the Maternity Center at Nyack Hospital to stress the urgency for the New York State Legislature to pass legislation mandating postpartum screening /education.

The conference followed on the heels of the release a few days ago of a major research study whose results indicate that within 3 months of giving birth, one in a thousand women suffer from schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression or other psychotic conditions. The international study followed 630,000 women and 547,000 men who became parents for the first time.

"Startling statistical data appearing in this month's Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) provides dramatic proof that debilitating postpartum psychoses are occurring more frequently, putting mothers at risk of hurting themselves or their infants," said Senator Morahan.

Senator Morahan introduced legislation (S7913) in May, 2006 which would require postpartum screening for all new mothers. The legislation directs the New York State Commissioner of Health to work with health care facilities and licensed health care professionals to develop policies and procedures to implement educational/informational programs to departing new mothers and fathers and other family members about postpartum depression and its symptoms and methods of coping with the illness and treatment resources.

"Study data indicates an estimated 70 to 80 percent of new mothers experience a mild mood disorder known as the "baby blues" that lasts one to two weeks. However, 10 to 15 percent of new mothers suffer postpartum depression, a more serious mental disorder that can last weeks to months," said Morahan.