As part of the landmark health insurance reform bill that passed Congress on Monday, the Melanie Blocker Stokes MOTHERS Act – legislation sponsored by U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) – will become law.  The legislation will establish a comprehensive federal commitment to combating postpartum depression through new research, education initiatives and voluntarily support service programs.  The legislation is designed to:

  1. Encourage Health and Human Services (HHS) to coordinate and facilitate research to expand the understanding of the causes of, and find treatments for, postpartum mood disorders.
  2. Encourage a National Public Awareness Campaign, to be administered by HHS, to increase awareness of postpartum depression and psychosis.
  3. Conduct a study on the benefits of screening for postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis.
  4. Create a grant program to fund public or non-profit private entities to deliver or enhance outpatient, inpatient and home-based health and support services, including case management and comprehensive treatment services for women with or at risk for postpartum conditions.

Postpartum depression is an illness which affects nearly one million American women each year, yet it has typically been overlooked so that most women with this illness receive no treatment whatsoever.  “Adoption of the MOTHERS Act is a positive development for women and their families,” said American Psychiatric Association President Alan F. Schatzberg, M.D. “Now the many women who are suffering from postpartum depression will have the support needed to get the help for this treatable condition.”

Ruta Nonacs, MD PhD