Category Archives: legislation

Is a Postpartum Depression Defense a Cop-Out?

A few of you who read my blog regularly and follow me on Twitter may remember a conversation I held with a woman who asked at her blog if Postpartum Depression is a cop-out defense when it comes to infanticide. This post is my response. It’s taken me some time to write due to research and the intense emotional aspect of this issue. The post below is lengthy. It is triggering. There are graphic descriptions beginning in the first paragraph. If you are easily triggered, go watch this video instead. Oh, and if you go watch the video? I’m not responsible for the ensuing addiction. (I’ve been listening to it almost non-stop for the past 36 hours.)

[youtube=http://youtu.be/8UVNT4wvIGY]

Humankind cannot bear too much reality.

T.S. Eliot

Since the dawn of time, humanity has grappled with parental induced deaths of infants and children. In Paleolithic and Neolithic ages, infanticide was an acceptable practice, one meant to preserve the balance of man and his immediately available resources. Later, in some cultures, infanticide grew to be gender-based with girls specifically sacrificed due to the cost of dowry required at marriage. Ritual sacrifice, unwanted birth, illegitimate birth, gender disappointment (including financial reasons such as dowry), birth defects or deformities, preservation of ecological balance, and a number of additional reasons peppered several cultures as legitimate reasons for the practice of infanticide.

Common early methods of infanticide included but were not limited to: exposure, suffocation or asphyxia, ritual sacrifice, brute force, blunt force trauma, and others. The most common method was exposure as this freed the parents from any direct involvement in their infant’s actual death according to societal belief. In fact, Romans often abandoned their infants with the hopes they would be raised by others, in which case they were referred to as “foundlings.”

Infanticide, the murder of a child older than 24 hours yet younger than 12 months, is carried out in our modern ages primarily by the mother and typically does not involve brute force or violent methods. The child is instead smothered, drowned, poisoned, or asphyxiated. Some cases do involve more force and more heinous methods.

Most mothers who commit infanticide are in a lower financial class and lack support from family and community. It’s also important to note many victims of infanticide are not first born but instead second or later born children.

Interestingly enough, not many fathers were cited in the research in regard to infanticide. In fact, only four known cases of infanticide with fathers at fault are present in current literature spanning the subject of infanticide. Fathers are far more prevalent in filicide cases which are cases involving children over 12 months of age. In these cases, the father is more likely to also harm the mother and himself in addition to any children involved.

In many infanticide cases involving mothers, a mental health disorder is cited as part of the defense or reason for the crime. Occasionally this directly relates to a Postpartum Mood Disorder, specifically Postpartum Psychosis. But for the mothers who use a Mental Health defense, is it a worthwhile defense or is it a cop out?

Postpartum Mood Disorders have been mentioned in literature since Hippocrates. Within the past several years, research and community awareness has exposed these conditions as real and palpable. While the true cause is not yet known or fully understood, researchers are working to expose the root cause and improve treatment for those affected. To date, we understand some physical roots but experts are still teasing out the specifics of these causes. Increasing social support surrounding mothers has proven time and again to be key to preventing and shortening the Postpartum Mood Disorder experience. Creating awareness and understanding of a less than Utopian postpartum experience lends a helping hand as well. Improving access to knowledgeable professional resources such as psychiatrists, therapists, and the like, also increases the potential for recovery success in families struggling with Postpartum Mood Disorders.

In many infanticide cases, the mothers and their families did not have adequate access to knowledgeable and compassionate personal, community, or professional help. If they did realize help was needed, they were either discouraged from reaching out for it via societal stigma (ie, the husband didn’t want his wife on medication, they were told to get “over it,” or there were religious beliefs preventing the necessary help) or there simply was not adequate sympathetic and knowledgeable care within physical or financial reach. That said, every infanticide case, as with every Postpartum Mood Disorder case, is different from the next. There are important basic factors from each which carry over into the next but the idiosyncrasies differ which make each case nearly impossible to successfully compare in entirety to the next.

From a legal perspective, choosing a Mental Health Defense is more of a crap shoot or a game of roulette. Postpartum Psychosis and Depression, while a real and experienced phenomenon, is not a guaranteed defense against the crime or action of infanticide. It is a transient defense at best, one wholly dependent upon the current legal status of mental health defense within the state and/or country in which the accused mother resides.

The legal definition of Postpartum Psychosis is not congruent with the medical definition. Both are based, at this time, officially on speculation. The DSM IV eliminated Postpartum Psychosis as a classification. The DSM III listed Postpartum Psychosis in the index but not as a separate illness. According to the DSM III, Postpartum Psychosis was thought to fall under: schizophreniform disorder, brief reactive psychosis, atypical psychosis, major affective disorder, and organic brain syndrome. Postpartum Psychosis occurs in 1 to 2 births out of every 1,000, or at a .1% rate. Postpartum Psychosis is considered a medical emergency with immediate treatment necessary. Onset is sudden and occurs within the first 4 weeks after birth, most often within the first 2-3 days. Postpartum Psychosis is the deadliest of the Postpartum Mood Disorders with a 5% rate of infanticide.

The legal definition of Postpartum Psychosis is no different than that of any other Mental Health Disorder as far as fault-finding and therefore subject to the same rigorous testing of any other Mental Health defense. In the United States, this is dependent on the state of residence. Some states abide by the M’Naughten rule while others abide by the A.L.I. test. In three states, Montana, Idaho, and Utah, the Insanity Defense has been abolished even though these states still admit evidence of mental status in cases.

Even with access to a state by state chart of current Mental Health Defense guidelines, it’s confusing at best to determine what your outcome would be in a court of law. In the United States, there is argument against setting a legal specification for Infanticide  as England did in 1922. The current argument against this specification cites lack of a true medical definition for Psychosis along with the potential for a growth of sympathy for mothers who kill and would then invoke the status.

If a mother who commits infanticide invokes a Mental Health Defense, she is not guaranteed freedom if not convicted of murder in the criminal sense but is instead found Not Guilty By Reason of Insanity (a conviction, by the way, not available in ALL states and very dependent upon which test your state uses to determine sanity at time of criminal action). She instead opens herself up to be remanded to a State Mental Institute more than likely with high security. This is not like going home after trial or heading off to a luxurious Club Med vacation. This is dark, gloomy, filled with meds, psychiatrists, therapy, and communing with a population who is equally if not more disturbed than the remanded mother. She is cut off from family, from friends, and from her life, just as if she were sentenced directly to jail. Also, she is continually judged by society, regardless of her convicted status as a psychiatric inmate versus a mainstream high security or possibly death row inmate.

Once remanded to a Mental Institution, the sentenced mother is at the hands of whatever governing body is responsible for releasing psychiatric inmates. This also differs from state to state. More often than not, it is the Court but a few states hand this responsibility to various agencies within their purview. She may also be sentenced to spend a specified amount of years at the Mental Institution despite therapeutic or rehabilitation status, thereby subjecting her to additional exposure to a less than preferable environment for years after conviction just as if she were a mainstream inmate.

The legal and medical diagnosis and defense of Postpartum Psychosis are at best subjective to the diagnostic technologies, sound judgment, and ethics of the medical and legal professionals privy to each individual case of infanticide, thereby further complicating the transient nature of this defense. Therefore a conclusion claiming Postpartum Depression/Psychosis defense as a “cop-out” is erroneous at best as this defense rarely guarantees the defendant the freedom to which she had access prior to her accusation and subsequent proceedings regardless of any legal outcome.

As David G. Myers stated in Social Psychology, “There is an objective reality out there, but we view it through the spectacles of our beliefs, attitudes, and values.” Infanticide has an objective reality in the courtroom. It is a crime. The precise charges depend upon the circumstances of the commission of the actual crime. The defense relies upon the knowledge of the psychological and criminal experts examining the accused. The prosecution relies upon them as well but relies heavier upon the requirements set forth by the law and the justice system to which they are bound. Society at large, meanwhile, is set free to judge, convict, and develop opinions not bound by the court. Our convictions of the accused mothers may be harsher, intrinsically darkened with our own emotions and experiences.

In the end, far more than one life is lost in every case of infanticide. Yes, one life moves on to eternity, but the lives of those surrounding the one lost will never recover. Infanticide is therefore not an incident captured in a vacuum but a ripple vacillating through families and communities like a tornado. Conversations must be held, action must be taken, and the stigma of asking for help signifying failure at motherhood must dissipate if we are to begin to battle the further destruction and loss of mothers, families, and infants to this crime.


MOTHER’S Act supporters gather to celebrate enactment of historic postpartum legislation

Today, at 1130 a.m. EST, a gathering will take place. A gathering that has been years in the making, has had some of the most amazing and dedicated supporters I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting, and a gathering that celebrates the thousands and possibly millions of lives which will be saved in the years to come.

Senator Menendez, Rep. Bobby Rush, Carol Blocker, Susan Dowd Stone, Katherine Stone, Sylvia Lasalandra, and several other advocates are gathering on Capitol Hill to celebrate the enactment of the MOTHER’S Act. This is a momentous day indeed.

This past year I spearheaded a blog event to help increase grassroots support of this bill. Several other women also worked diligently to increase support and gather signatures for a petition which was presented to Senators in support of this bill. It was not an easy task. We had opposition. Opposition which attacked us like nothing I’ve ever experienced. They said things about us that simply were not true in an attempt to bring us down and decrease our support for the bill. But it didn’t work. We persevered through their words, through their hatred, through their guilt-ridden tactics. Was it easy? Heck no. But we kept on in the trenches because we had truly been IN the trenches fighting off our own battles with Postpartum Mood Disorders before our births as advocates. We knew what it was like to be tragically alone in that cold, damp place. And we were gonna be damned if we let that continue to be the norm.

Along the way, we proved our compassion for all new moms. We provided resources and supported them as they cried out for help in the darkness of their battle with Postpartum Mood Disorder instead of attacking them for choosing to use certain therapies available to them.We lifted women and families up with love, warmth, and cherished each one of their experiences. We cried with them, laughed with them, celebrated victories and comforted in times of loss and grief. We were there.

We won a good fight.

And today?

Today’s just the icing on the cake – the party.

But beneath that icing, rest assured we will continue our hard work. We WILL be there for all those who contact us, who lean on us for support, for reassurance that yes, YOU too can beat this beast.

Today though, I’m giving you permission to have your cake and eat it too. We’ve damn well earned it.

Heartbreaking News out of Houston, TX

I debated about whether or not I should blog about this topic. It’s graphic, it’s disturbing, and it’s deeply saddened me. I finally made the decision to blog about it to clear up a certain point I’ve found in most of the news stories.

Unless you’ve been on a news blackout or under a rock, you’ve undoubtedly heard about the tragedy which occurred in TX this past weekend. I will not be delving into the details here. They are quite graphic and disturbing. I had a hard time reading the news story. I do not wish to trigger any suffering women who regularly read or subscribe to this blog. If you have a stronger stomach and do not feel you would be triggered by the details, you can read the story here.

The news story states the mother was mentally ill, having been previously diagnosed with schizophrenia.(Dad also had been diagnosed with schizophrenia)

Once again though, Postpartum Depression is mentioned in the story. Postpartum Depression is being bandied about as a possible cause of her behaviour.

I’d really like to make something perfectly clear.

Women with Postpartum DEPRESSION do NOT murder their children.

Let me say that again.

WOMEN WITH POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION DO NOT MURDER THEIR CHILDREN!!!!!!!

However, women with Postpartum PSYCHOSIS are much more likely to follow through with these horrific thoughts.

Postpartum Psychosis is a medical emergency. The onset is fast and furious and this particular Postpartum Disorder carries the highest risk of suicide, infanticide, and filicide of ALL the Disorders on the spectrum.Women with Postpartum Psychotic symptoms should absolutely not be left alone with their infants.

According to MedEd PPD, Symptoms of Postpartum Psychosis are:

  • Risk of harm to self (suicidality)
  • Risk of harm to others (homicidality)
  • Inability to provide basic care for self (usually due to psychosis). Psychosis is associated with both suicidality and homicidal ideation toward the infant or others.

Mothers with Psychosis may also show signs of delusional thinking, hear voices, or experience hallucinations.

And what should family members do if they suspect a new mother may be exhibiting signs of Psychosis?

Most importantly, the mother should NOT be left alone with her infant. She should be immediately transported to the ER for professional assessment and treatment. In the above article, it is stated that the mother’s family noticed her decline in mental status just a week prior to her crime. She was hospitalized but signed herself out.

Risk Factors for developing Psychosis include (but are not limited to) family or personal history of bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. In this particular case, the mother had been previously diagnosed and hospitalized for Schizophrenia.

How often does Postpartum Psychosis occur? One per 1000 mothers may experience Psychosis.

If you want to truly understand Postpartum Psychosis, go read my interview with Teresa Twomey, author of Understanding Postpartum Psychosis. Both she and her daughter fortunately survived Postpartum Psychosis. With the publication of her book, she hoped to help remove stigma from this condition which is so very often sensationalized in mainstream media and made to seem more common than it really is.

How many more of these cases do we need to read about? How many more times do we have to confuse Postpartum Depression with Postpartum Psychosis in mainstream media? How many more times do we have to mourn the loss of another infant because a mother was left behind by an uneducated system which failed her? How many more times are we to read about a family destroyed by something which could have been prevented if swift action had been taken?

Why weren’t preventative measures already in place given the mom’s mental health history? Why was this tragedy allowed to occur? And why are moms in TX murdering their infants at such a high rate?

Why?

When will we wake up and realize that we need to reduce stigma, increase awareness, educate, research, and inform medical professionals in ALL fields about the dangers of Postpartum Psychosis? Educate them about the differences between Postpartum Depression, Anxiety, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Post-Traumatic Disorder – WHEN?!?!

THE MOTHER’S ACT needs to be passed NOW! Families cannot wait any longer for relief!

Just Talkin’ Tuesday: The MOTHER’S Act

LegislationOn February 23, 2001, Melanie Stokes gave birth to a baby girl. Just three months later, she committed suicide. Melanie’s death gave birth to a very dedicated activist – her mother, Carol Blocker. Frustrated with the failure of physicians to appropriately care for her daughter, Carol worked endlessly to keep Melanie’s tragic death from becoming meaningless. Through Carol’s tireless advocacy and work with Representative Bobby Rush (IL), the Melanie Blocker Stokes Act has now become The MOTHER’S Act.

The MOTHER’S Act as it reads in the current version would provide funds for a public awareness campaign, education campaign for caregivers, increase availability of treatment options and entities as well as require the current Secretary of Health & Human Services to conduct a study regarding the validity of screening for Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders.

More and more research is slowly uncovering potential underlying causes and risks related to Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders. More and more women and caregivers are becoming educated as more of those who have survived a PMAD speak up to share our story.

If passed, The MOTHER’S Act would further reduce the stigma surrounding new mothers not ensconced in the Johnson & Johnson glow of infantdom. If passed, the MOTHER’S Act would increase funding for research and possibly open even more doors to understanding the cause and more importantly, the potential for truly preventing Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders. If passed, the MOTHER’S Act has the potential to prevent tragic deaths like that of Melanie Blocker Stokes.

Much of the debate surrounding the MOTHER’S Act has centered on the word “medication.” Medication does not necessarily mean Anti-depressants. It does not mean this is the ONLY way to treat a PMAD. It is merely listed as an option for treatment. And frankly, if one has a doctor with a quicker draw on his/her prescription pad than Billy the Kidd, I’d run away. I’d run away faster than a cheetah.

Another key point of the opposition has been that the MOTHER’S Act mandates screening. In the current version, there is no mandate for screening. The only mention of screening is to require the Secretary of Health & Human Services to conduct a study regarding the validity of screening for Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders. The current standard for screening is the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale, which you can learn more about here.

You can read a copy of the current bill by clicking here.

Go read it. (Don’t worry – it’ll pop up in a new tab/window – I’m cool like that here)

Seriously. Read. The. Bill.

Then read it again.

And then come back here. Be honest.

Unlike this week’s TIME article which failed to present both sides, I promise to allow unedited comments in support of or opposing the bill as long as they are civil. (Any comments including personal attacks will NOT be allowed!)

So let’s get to Just Talkin’ Tuesday already!

TIME Magazine misfires debate on MOTHER’S Act

Awhile back, I was contacted by Catherine Elton regarding an article which was to examine Postpartum Depression and the Mother’s Act. The email somehow got buried and I did not get a chance to participate in the discussion.

It seems that it would not have mattered if I had been able to discuss my story with her.

Time published the story this week. While the online version has been modified to correct an error with Ms. Amy Philo’s story, you can still see the original version in the hard copy. (Which by the way, I am personally asking you to boycott – even asking if you can take the copy of TIME home from the doctor’s office in order to keep other moms from reading it! And make sure you ASK – because just taking it would be stealing and that’s illegal.)

The original version, entitled “The Melancholy of Motherhood” includes one quote from Carole Blocker, the mother of Melanie Blocker Stokes, a mother who tragically committed suicide after unsuccessful treatment for severe postpartum depression after the birth of her daughter. The quote reflects Ms. Blocker’s confusion as to how someone could oppose the MOTHER’S Act, a bill which is designed to increase public and professional education regarding Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders. Frankly, I’m confused right along with Ms. Blocker.

The only survivor story featured in this article is that of Amy Philo, one of five recipients of an Outstanding Achievement for Mothers’ and Children’s Rights awards from the Citizens Commision on Human Rights or CCHR. CCHR was founded in 1969 by none other than the Church of Scientology, well-known to oppose the entire psychiatric field.

Amy has tirelessly worked against this bill for quite some time now but continues to be tragically misled. Few discussions with her have led to quite the round robin with Amy unable to come up with legitimate research to back up her claims. When asked for said research, Amy refers to her own websites instead of to specific research articles supporting her claims.

I happen to know that Ms. Elton did indeed interview fellow survivors who support the bill. One has to wonder then, why did their stories not make it into the article? Was it length? Was it editing? Or was it intentional? Regardless, the finished piece as published presents a very frightening and deceiptful picture of what new mothers face is this bill is passed. To begin with, the MOTHER’S Act no longer mandates screening. It requires a study to be completed by the Secretary of Health and Human Services (Kathleen Sebelius) as well as funds for an educational campaign for both caregivers and the general public.

I agree that just because a new mother shows emotion she should not immediately be diagnosed as having a PMAD. I also believe that a woman should have free choice when it comes to her treatment decisions and should NOT be judged for those choices. I chose to take Anti-depressants. My first prescription did not work out. But my second one did. Just as with any other medication, sometimes they don’t work so well with your system. So you try another one. You don’t suddenly take your own care into your hands – that’s ridiculous. Would you try to heal a broken leg or diabetes on your own? No? I didn’t think so. So why would you rely solely on self-care when it comes to mental illness? Self-care should be part of the picture but it shouldn’t be the ONLY part of the picture.

I am so tired of being judged and accused of not having informed consent. You know what? When I made my decision to go on Anti-Depressants, I had carried around an informational packet about AD’s & Breastfeeding given to me by the NICU Lactation Consultant with me for a week. I read that thing through and through. I was exclusively pumping for my daughter at the time and did not want to jeopardize her receiving my milk if I ended up having to take something. But I couldn’t function. I couldn’t take care of my family, I couldn’t take care of myself, and a lot of the same thoughts were coming back. Negative, scary thoughts about knives and hurting myself and my family. Yet I wasn’t on anti-depressants. I needed to be able to function. So I made a very informed decision to do so, one I do not regret to this day.

TIME – I am very disappointed in your lack of sharing both sides of this debate. Very very disappointed.

An Open Letter about the MOTHER’S Act to Kirstie Allie

S 324 IS

111th CONGRESS

1st Session

S. 324

To provide for research on, and services for individuals with, postpartum depression and psychosis.

IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES

January 26, 2009

Mr. MENENDEZ (for himself, Mr. DURBIN, Ms. SNOWE, Mr. LAUTENBERG, Mr. WHITEHOUSE, and Mr. BROWN) introduced the following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions

A BILL

To provide for research on, and services for individuals with, postpartum depression and psychosis.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

This Act may be cited as the ‘Melanie Blocker Stokes Mom’s Opportunity to Access Health, Education, Research, and Support for Postpartum Depression Act’ or the ‘Melanie Blocker Stokes MOTHERS Act’.

SEC. 2. DEFINITIONS.

For purposes of this Act–

(1) the term ‘postpartum condition’ means postpartum depression or postpartum psychosis; and

(2) the term ‘Secretary’ means the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

TITLE I–RESEARCH ON POSTPARTUM CONDITIONS

SEC. 101. EXPANSION AND INTENSIFICATION OF ACTIVITIES.

(a) Continuation of Activities- The Secretary is encouraged to continue activities on postpartum conditions.

(b) Programs for Postpartum Conditions- In carrying out subsection (a), the Secretary is encouraged to continue research to expand the understanding of the causes of, and treatments for, postpartum conditions. Activities under such subsection shall include conducting and supporting the following:

(1) Basic research concerning the etiology and causes of the conditions.

(2) Epidemiological studies to address the frequency and natural history of the conditions and the differences among racial and ethnic groups with respect to the conditions.

(3) The development of improved screening and diagnostic techniques.

(4) Clinical research for the development and evaluation of new treatments.

(5) Information and education programs for health care professionals and the public, which may include a coordinated national campaign to increase the awareness and knowledge of postpartum conditions. Activities under such a national campaign may–

(A) include public service announcements through television, radio, and other means; and

(B) focus on–

(i) raising awareness about screening;

(ii) educating new mothers and their families about postpartum conditions to promote earlier diagnosis and treatment; and

(iii) ensuring that such education includes complete information concerning postpartum conditions, including its symptoms, methods of coping with the illness, and treatment resources.

SEC. 102. SENSE OF CONGRESS REGARDING LONGITUDINAL STUDY OF RELATIVE MENTAL HEALTH CONSEQUENCES FOR WOMEN OF RESOLVING A PREGNANCY.

(a) Sense of Congress- It is the sense of Congress that the Director of the National Institute of Mental Health may conduct a nationally representative longitudinal study (during the period of fiscal years 2009 through 2018) of the relative mental health consequences for women of resolving a pregnancy (intended and unintended) in various ways, including carrying the pregnancy to term and parenting the child, carrying the pregnancy to term and placing the child for adoption, miscarriage, and having an abortion. This study may assess the incidence, timing, magnitude, and duration of the immediate and long-term mental health consequences (positive or negative) of these pregnancy outcomes.

(b) Report- Subject to the completion of the study under subsection (a), beginning not later than 5 years after the date of the enactment of this Act, and periodically thereafter for the duration of the study, such Director may prepare and submit to the Congress reports on the findings of the study.

TITLE II–DELIVERY OF SERVICES REGARDING POSTPARTUM CONDITIONS

SEC. 201. ESTABLISHMENT OF GRANT PROGRAM.

Subpart I of part D of title III of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. 254b et seq.) is amended by inserting after section 330G the following:

‘SEC. 330G-1. SERVICES TO INDIVIDUALS WITH A POSTPARTUM CONDITION AND THEIR FAMILIES.

‘(a) In General- The Secretary may make grants to eligible entities for projects for the establishment, operation, and coordination of effective and cost-efficient systems for the delivery of essential services to individuals with a postpartum condition and their families.

‘(b) Certain Activities- To the extent practicable and appropriate, the Secretary shall ensure that projects funded under subsection (a) provide education and services with respect to the diagnosis and management of postpartum conditions. The Secretary may allow such projects to include the following:

‘(1) Delivering or enhancing outpatient and home-based health and support services, including case management and comprehensive treatment services for individuals with or at risk for postpartum conditions, and delivering or enhancing support services for their families.

‘(2) Delivering or enhancing inpatient care management services that ensure the well-being of the mother and family and the future development of the infant.

‘(3) Improving the quality, availability, and organization of health care and support services (including transportation services, attendant care, homemaker services, day or respite care, and providing counseling on financial assistance and insurance) for individuals with a postpartum condition and support services for their families.

‘(4) Providing education to new mothers and, as appropriate, their families about postpartum conditions to promote earlier diagnosis and treatment. Such education may include–

‘(A) providing complete information on postpartum conditions, symptoms, methods of coping with the illness, and treatment resources; and

‘(B) in the case of a grantee that is a State, hospital, or birthing facility–

‘(i) providing education to new mothers and fathers, and other family members as appropriate, concerning postpartum conditions before new mothers leave the health facility; and

‘(ii) ensuring that training programs regarding such education are carried out at the health facility.

‘(c) Integration With Other Programs- To the extent practicable and appropriate, the Secretary may integrate the grant program under this section with other grant programs carried out by the Secretary, including the program under section 330.

‘(d) Certain Requirements- A grant may be made under this section only if the applicant involved makes the following agreements:

‘(1) Not more than 5 percent of the grant will be used for administration, accounting, reporting, and program oversight functions.

‘(2) The grant will be used to supplement and not supplant funds from other sources related to the treatment of postpartum conditions.

‘(3) The applicant will abide by any limitations deemed appropriate by the Secretary on any charges to individuals receiving services pursuant to the grant. As deemed appropriate by the Secretary, such limitations on charges may vary based on the financial circumstances of the individual receiving services.

‘(4) The grant will not be expended to make payment for services authorized under subsection (a) to the extent that payment has been made, or can reasonably be expected to be made, with respect to such services–

‘(A) under any State compensation program, under an insurance policy, or under any Federal or State health benefits program; or

‘(B) by an entity that provides health services on a prepaid basis.

‘(5) The applicant will, at each site at which the applicant provides services funded under subsection (a), post a conspicuous notice informing individuals who receive the services of any Federal policies that apply to the applicant with respect to the imposition of charges on such individuals.

‘(6) For each grant period, the applicant will submit to the Secretary a report that describes how grant funds were used during such period.

‘(e) Technical Assistance- The Secretary may provide technical assistance to entities seeking a grant under this section in order to assist such entities in complying with the requirements of this section.

‘(f) Definitions- In this section:

‘(1) The term ‘eligible entity’–

‘(A) means a public or nonprofit private entity; and

‘(B) includes a State or local government, public-private partnership, recipient of a grant under section 330H (relating to the Healthy Start Initiative), public or nonprofit private hospital, community-based organization, hospice, ambulatory care facility, community health center, migrant health center, public housing primary care center, or homeless health center.

‘(2) The term ‘postpartum condition’ means postpartum depression or postpartum psychosis.’.

TITLE III–GENERAL PROVISIONS

SEC. 301. AUTHORIZATION OF APPROPRIATIONS.

To carry out this Act and the amendment made by section 201, there are authorized to be appropriated, in addition to such other sums as may be available for such purpose–

(1) $3,000,000 for fiscal year 2009; and

(2) such sums as may be necessary for fiscal years 2010 and 2011.

SEC. 302. REPORT BY THE SECRETARY.

(a) Study- The Secretary shall conduct a study on the benefits of screening for postpartum conditions.

(b) Report- Not later than 2 years after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall complete the study required by subsection (a) and submit a report to the Congress on the results of such study.

SEC. 303. LIMITATION.

Notwithstanding any other provision of this Act or the amendment made by section 201, the Secretary may not utilize amounts made available under this Act or such amendment to carry out activities or programs that are duplicative of activities or programs that are already being carried out through the Department of Health and Human Services.

Sen. Menendez holds Press Conference at Valley Hospital

This past Monday, Senator Menendez held a press conference at Valley Hospital to speak about the MOTHER’S Act. Susan Stone, Sylvia Lasalandra, and Mary Jo Codey were all in attendance.

Emphasized was the fact that the MOTHER’S Act does NOT mandate screening. According to the Susan Stone’s blog post announcing the press conference, Dr. Fred Rezvani, Chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Valley Hospital in Ridgewood NJ, emphasized the need to include all forms of treatment for new mothers suffering from these disorders including nutrition, massage and acupuncture and other complementary therapies, to home services, social support and psychological counseling.

Senator Menendez was presented with a petition of national organizations and individual constituents representing millions of Americans who understand the need for this legislation can no longer be ignored. With the bipartisan support that currently exists for the legislation, its likelihood of passage among the priority of healthcare reform seems likely, but the advocacy efforts must continue! The entire audience expressed their thanks to Senator Menendez for his determined advocacy on behalf of America’s mothers.

~Susan Stone~

You can read more about the press conference by clicking here.

Senator Coburn: A walking oxymoron

Tom Coburn makes my head hurt!!!!!!!

Seriously. I was doing my homework on Senator Coburn last night and landed a headache miles longer than Route 66.

Senator Tom Coburn, R, OK, has been by far one of the staunchest opposers of the MOTHER’S Act.

BUT –

He’s an OB

He’s delivered 4,000 babies.

Statistics would lead you to believe he’s seen at LEAST a few cases of PPD, right?

According to Dr. Coburn, breastfeeding is automatic protection against postpartum mood disorders. (Ok Sen Coburn – so where was my protection when I was exclusively nursing my first daughter or exclusively pumping for my second? seriously – where was it? Was it hiding under some mysterious rock? Behind my back? Did I leave it at the hospital? Perhaps my first OB stole it from me – but wherever it was, I sure as heck didn’t have it!)

His primary argument for being against The Melanie Blocker Stokes Act? He doesn’t support disease specific legislation. Yeah, um, ok.

Let’s delve into some legislation Senator Coburn has authored, shall we? (By the way, everything below was pulled directly off his Senate website)

Guaranteeing Patient’s Rights (author)

A law to guarantee patients’ rights for those enrolled in Medicare and Medicaid, including timely access to primary and specialty health care providers, a timely grievance process with appeals, an explanation of the enrollee’s rights and plan information, and prohibitions on restrictions on communications between patients and doctors and financial incentives to encourage health care providers to deny medically necessary care. Provision contained within Public Law 105-33, signed 8/5/1997.

YET Dr. Coburn does NOT accept Medicaid/Medicare patients at HIS OWN PRACTICE! (OK Medical Board website)

Streamlining the Approval of Disease Diagnostics (author)

A law to improve the review and approval process of radiopharmaceuticals (articles used in the diagnosis or monitoring of a disease). Provision contained within Public Law 105-115, signed 11/21/1997.

(Is it just me or is the word DISEASE not only in the title but the description too?)

Protecting Babies from AIDS (author)

A law to require all pregnant women to be counseled about and offered testing for HIV to prevent the transmission of the virus to unborn and newborn babies.  Provision contained with Public Law 104-146, signed 5/20/1996.

(Hmmm. AIDS is a disease. Pretty specific one too. AND this one requires counseling and an offer of a test)

Treating and Preventing HIV/AIDS (author)

A law to provide access to AIDS treatment for underinsured Americans living with HIV, including counseling for those with HIV emphasizing it is the continuing duty of those infected not to infect others with the disease.  Public Law 106-345, signed on 10/20/2000.

(Wow. Treating AND Preventing HIV, huh? Feeling a little warm over here…)

Providing Access to Affordable Prescription Drugs (author)

A law to allow Americans to import prescription drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Provision contained with Public Law 106-387, signed 10/28/2000.

(So he’s ok with importing drugs that yes, may be approved by the FDA but only God knows from where some of them are sourced. Yet he wants to deny new moms access to care and aid for Postpartum Depression?????)

Preventing Cervical Cancer(author)

A law to educate the public about human papillomavirus (HPV), a leading cause of cervical cancer, including how to prevent HPV infection. The law also requires condoms to be relabeled with a warning that condom use does not protect against HPV infection. Provision contained within Public Law 106-554, signed 12/21/2000.

(Wow. A law to educate the public about a DISEASE. Again – common ground?)

Source: http://coburn.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=AboutSenatorCoburn.Accomplishments on April 21, 2009 @ 1132pm.

Seriously though.

Postpartum Mood Disorders should not be a ping pong ball across the aisles of the Senate. Just as it is not black and white out here in the real world as to who will get it, it’s not JUST a Democratic Issue. It’s not JUST a Republican Issue. It’s an every party issue. It’s a 20% of ALL new moms issue. It’s a 50% higher risk of repeat for survivors the second time around. It’s a 95% risk of repeat for survivors the third time around! It’s a 2.3x higher risk for Moms who have husbands/partners deployed issue. It’s a 3x higher risk for first time Moms over the age of 35 developing Postpartum Psychosis issue. It’s a HUGE issue, ok?

I want to know at what point in the feminist movement Moms got screwed over. When did we become ok with chilling on the back burner? Where is Susan B Anthony when we need her? Anyone out there in need of a kick in your activism spirit? Watch Iron Jawed Angels. It’s about suffrage. And man did those chicks go through it. I HOPE it doesn’t come to that but I am passionately determined to get this bill passed. Thing is, I can’t do it by myself.

Senator Menendez can’t do it by himself. Neither can Congressman Bobby Rush. Or Carole Blocker. Or Susan Stone. We need YOUR help, YOUR voices. Your stories of survival, strength, and experiences with a system that is failing new families each and every day. We HAVE to raise awareness.

Don’t wait any longer to pick up that phone and call the H.E.L.P. Committee. Go to your email and send a message RIGHT now to Susan Dowd Stone (susanstonelcsw@aol.com). Include your name, state, and any professional credentials or organizational affilitations. Let others know you support the MOTHER’S Act.

SPEAK UP!

National Association of Certified Professional Midwives Endorses MOTHER’S Act

With astonishing grit and determination, midwifery is making a comeback here in the United States. Back in the day (and boy do I mean BACK in the day), midwifery was common practice. Many women relied on other women to help them through pregnancy and childbirth. You see, childbirth has not always been as medically complicated as it is now. In fact, involving a doctor in childbirth started out as a status symbol towards the end of the eighteenth century. Even though women in the home had been acting physicians for years, a belief sprung up that these same women were “emotionally and intellectually unable to learn the new obstetric methods.” Medical schools were also not available for women to attend. Thus began the introduction of the Obstetrician and the downfall of the biblical midwife. (see Genesis 35:17. Yes, GENESIS!)

One of the primary risk factors for a Postpartum Mood Disorder is lack of social support. When midwifery was widely practiced here in the United States, childbirth was a very social event. Women would fill the homes of the expectant mother with food, offers of respite, shared knowledge, and community.

Nowadays many of us are lucky if we even get one meal prepared for us let alone any offers of respite immediately after birth. Yet what are we told to do? REST! But how are we to do this when society fails to allow us to do so? And what happened to our 40 days? Why is it that every other culture seems to treat their mothers better than ours? When did we allow ourselves to take a backseat? Where’s the self-care in the birthing period? And more importantly – why have we as women allowed this to be stolen from us? Why are we silently suffering?

The Melanie Blocker Stokes MOTHER’S Act stipulates the funding of a rather large awareness campaign for both medical professionals and consumers. Through this campaign, mothers would be able to shed the stigma which keeps them from seeking help. It would enable new mothers to be more comfortable with coming forward into the light rather than staying in the dark as a risk not only to themselves but to their families as well. Mothers and families would be educated about the signs, symptoms that may indicate postpartum depression. They would also be educated about prevention tips and self-care methods that would either completely prevent or significantly shorten any negative Postpartum Experience.

It is important to note that The National Association of Certified Professional Midwives (NACPM) has endorsed the MOTHER’S Act. With this endorsement comes recognition that yes, something is wrong with the birthing system in America. We need to start somewhere. Why not with Midwives? Why not with Mothers who want to give birth the way it was meant to be experienced? While still possible, risks of developing a Postpartum Mood Disorder are significantly lower when a doula or a midwife is present at birth. (If you really want an eye opener into the mess of the Birthing Industry, I highly recommend The Business of Being Born)

So on this day, April 22, 2009, Earth Day, I urge you to call the H.E.L.P. Committee and let them know the MOST important thing to preserve today is the Mother/Child dyad. We can do this by passing the MOTHER’S Act. First we need to get it OUT of the HELP Committee and onto the Senate Floor.

Email Susan Dowd Stone (susanstonelcsw@aol.com) over at Perinatal Pro to have your name placed on the list in support of the MOTHER’S Act. (Be sure to include your name, state, any credentials and/or organizational affiliations!)

A Postpartum Mood Disorder doesn’t care if you’re a Democrat or a Republican. Heck, the mom seeking help from her doctor doesn’t even care what his or her political views are. All she cares about is that he/she is aware of what’s going on and is willing to work with her to find a solution that fits her lifestyle.

Today let your Earth Day Action be a political one.

Call the H.E.L.P. Committee.

Support The MOTHER’S Act!

Save a Mom.