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!

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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.

Just Talking Tuesday 07.07.09: Anti-depressants or Not?


original photo by thegirlsmoma @ flicker

original photo by thegirlsmoma @ flicker

Today’s topic was inspired by a post over at Postpartum Progress: You don’t NEED Anti-depressants, Do You?

In this post, Katherine discusses the lack of stigmatization regarding pharmeceutical treatment for medical conditions in response to a ScienceBlogs post you can find here.

Anti-depressants are stigmatized. Period. Nitro-glycerin or insulin? Not so much. Why? Just as Anti-depressants may work for me, they may not work for you. And if you have the wrong heart condition and take nitro-glycerin, things may not go your way either. But you don’t hear people judging others for being on nitro-glycerin, now do you? And insulin? Many Diabetics require this life-saving medication. Even pain medication after an injury – do you question that prescription? Most don’t and certainly aren’t stigmatized for taking it because let’s face it – a broken leg hurts – something we all understand.

Mental illness hurts too. It hurts the person suffering. It hurts the people around them. And if the right medication is paired with the right therapy, it can make a world of difference. Why then, are we stigmatized or accused of not understanding informed consent for deciding (of our own free will) to take medication as we heal? What makes the scaffolding of Anti-depressants any different than pain medication as a broken leg heals?

So I’m posing a pretty big question today. And I expect there will be a bit of debate about it – which is good…our different opinions are what keep us interesting! Just keep things polite. No hateful, judgemental or fear-centered comments will be approved.

Do/did you or don’t/didn’t you take Anti-depressants? Why? Why not?

And more importantly – IS it your place to tell someone else they absolutely SHOULD not take them if you don’t believe in them or have had a bad experience? Or should you calmly refer them to research that explains the risks vs. benefits and let them make the decision on their own WITH a professional on board?

Let’s get to Just Talkin’!

Tips on Identifying Reliable Health Information on the Internet


If you’ve landed here as a result of a Google, Yahoo,  Bing, or other search engine, you already know how many results you can get in mere seconds and even sometimes nano-seconds. Thousands! So you wade through the results hoping for reliable and trustworthy information. Unfortunately, not everything out there is reliable and trustworthy. And even if it is reliable and trustworthy, you should ALWAYS check with a professional prior to implementing or stopping any treatment.

Here are some general tips to help you tell the good from the bad (source: Medical Library Association):

1. Sponsorship
  • Can you easily identify the site sponsor? Sponsorship is important because it helps establish the site as respected and dependable. Does the site list advisory board members or consultants? This may give you further insights on the credibility of information published on the site.
  • The web address itself can provide additional information about the nature of the site and the sponsor’s intent.
    • A government agency has .gov in the address.
    • An educational institution is indicated by .edu in the address.
    • A professional organization such as a scientific or research society will be identified as .org. For example, the American Cancer Society’s website is http://www.cancer.org/.
    • Commercial sites identified by .com will most often identify the sponsor as a company, for example Merck & Co., the pharmaceutical firm.
  • What should you know about .com health sites? Commercial sites may represent a specific company or be sponsored by a company using the web for commercial reasons—to sell products. At the same time, many commercial websites have valuable and credible information. Many hospitals have .com in their address. The site should fully disclose the sponsor of the site, including the identities of commercial and noncommercial organizations that have contributed funding, services, or material to the site.
2. Currency
  • The site should be updated frequently. Health information changes constantly as new information is learned about diseases and treatments through research and patient care. websites should reflect the most up-to-date information.
  • The website should be consistently available, with the date of the latest revision clearly posted. This usually appears at the bottom of the page.
3. Factual information
  • Information should be presented in a clear manner. It should be factual (not opinion) and capable of being verified from a primary information source such as the professional literature, abstracts, or links to other web pages.
  • Information represented as an opinion should be clearly stated and the source should be identified as a qualified professional or organization.
4. Audience
  • The website should clearly state whether the information is intended for the consumer or the health professional.
  • Many health information websites have two different areas – one for consumers, one for professionals. The design of the site should make selection of one area over the other clear to the user.

MLA’s guidelines are an excellent starting point and should be used by anyone searching for Medical information on the internet. Many caregivers will also tell you to not search the web for information, especially if you have a Postpartum Mood Disorder. If you have a question and feel overwhelmed with doing research on your own, get in touch with a Postpartum Support International Coordinator, your midwife, or your doctor, and ask for help in doing research. Sometimes you may come across research or news stories that are not applicable to your situation that may cause triggering thoughts or increase your fear and anxiety without justification.

Another great way to check the reliability of a website is to do so through HONcode. HONcode, Health on the Net certifies websites with healthcare information. Their standards are pretty high and they certify on a random basis once a website has been accepted. (I’m currently working on acheiving this certification for this blog myself). Through HONcode, as a patient/consumer, you can download a toolbar or search directly from their site and will only be given websites that have been approved by them. Click here to learn more about the safety process at HONcode.

I also want to take a moment to mention that a good doctor or advocate will be compassionate, understanding, and work with you regarding your desired route of treatment. Good Caregivers and Advocates are able to stay objective and not allow personal experience to cloud their aid to those who seek their help. This does not dismiss advocates who have specialized knowledge of certain types of treatment however – what I mean by this statement is that if you approach and advocate with a question regarding an Anti-Depressant, they should direct you to research regarding that particular medication and encourage you to also speak with your caregiver. They should NOT bash said medication because they’ve had a bad experience with it. If the caregiver or advocate is not compassionate but instead dismisses or attacks your desired treatment methods, it’s time to find another caregiver or advocate for support.

As a Postpartum Support International Coordinator myself, I work very hard to support the journey the mother is on and the treatment route that best fits with her personal philosophy. I encourage the involvement of professionals – including her OB or midwife, a psychiatrist, and a therapist. I also encourage Mom to take time for herself, something we all forget to do from time to time, but is very important for our mental well-being.

So please remember to:

Thoroughly check the source of the information you are reading online using the above guidelines from the Medical Library Association as well as searching via HONcode for your information.

Double-check any information regarding starting treatment or stopping treatment with your professional caregiver prior to implementation.

Make sure your caregiver respects your opinion regarding your body. (You are of course, your #1 expert in this area!) If he/she fails to respect you, although it may be difficult, find another caregiver who DOES respect you!

Take time for yourself as you heal.

Sharing the Journey with Diane Ashton


Diane Ashton is the PSI Co-Coordinator for the state of Hawaii. Sasha Williams serves as the other Coordinator for the state of Hawaii. Diane is awesome. I’ve really gotten to know her via email and facebook (we’re both on Facebook WAY more than we should be). Diane is funny, honest, and a wonderful woman. I am thrilled she agreed to a very last minute interview (sorry diane! but thanks!) To learn more about the support Diane offers in Hawaii, visit her website, PPD Support Hawaii. Now here’s Diane’s story in her own words.

Tell us about Diane. Who is she when she’s not providing support to women with PPD?

Hi Lauren!  It’s kind of funny how self-identified with postpartum issues a person can become!  I know I’m singing to the choir here to say that PPD advocates are a passionate bunch!  Along with my obsession, avocation, I am the mom to two older children–they’re 15 & 20 now, although I have no idea how they grew up so fast.  You know how that is.  And all my cherished skills I learned from and with the two of them. We grew up together, in many ways. We’re all a bunch of computer nuts, and are sitting in a 10 x 10 room on our own computers right this minute.  It’s more fun than housework.


You’ve experienced PPD and describe it at the PSI website as a mystery/horror movie. Share with us your journey through this strange place.

It’s been over 14 years, so I tend to be a bit removed from the experience now.  Maybe that’s encouraging to moms going through it now–knowing that eventually PPD won’t feel like something you live and breathe every. single. day.  Why I described it as a mystery/horror movie was that, even though I’d probably been depressed in the past, I’d never been to the depths like I was with PPD.  I’d also never been so sleep deprived.  It was a sleep deprivation due to depression, not because my kids weren’t sleeping through the night.  They were.  I was too anxious to sleep; it was that kind of anxious/depression.  And that was part of why it made it so hard to figure out what was going on with me.  I didn’t feel “depressed”.  I felt, like so many other moms have described, like I was “going crazy”.  It was a mystery to me what was wrong.  With all that came intrusive thoughts that were very gory.  And they weren’t thoughts so much as very vivid images.  They scared me and made me think someone would take my kids away from me, and me away from society forever–pretty much a horror.

What made you realize your moods after giving birth were not quite right? How were you treated when you sought help?

I…actually, …I waited until my daughter was around eight months old before I started sliding into that PPD pit.  It was partly due to her big brother going off to kindergarten with all his little friends we’d seen every week for …4+ years.  But kindergarten is somehow a big shift anyway, and can put moms off-balance for a bit.  Or maybe it’s just us moms who’ve been on the PPD ride are more sensitive to changes.  Anyway, by mid-October (6, 7 weeks into kindergarten) I was losing it.  But no way was I admitting to it.  Although I tried to look stuff up (1994–not much of an internet to surf then) I couldn’t find anything that described what I was experiencing.

Finally my husband took me for “a Sunday drive” to the ER, where they kept and observed me for a while.  I stayed at the hospital for a bit and, well, my peers there were very interesting.  The main thing was though that I finally got on a medication (Zoloft) and it started working.  I began to feel a lot like myself again within a couple of weeks.


How did your family help you during this difficult time?

They were great.  My in-laws had dd while I was in the hospital.  Dh had ds at home, and took him to school each day.  Afterwards, I stayed with my in-laws for more support and to get up to some kind of speed again.  There were other times they stepped in in BIG ways over the next year too–I don’t know what we would have done without them.


Name three things that made you laugh today.

  • A video the kids pointed me to, on youtube had us all cracking up.  A bit on the potty humor side, but we laughed.
  • Talking with a couple of my girlfriends about calling, texting, to American Idol–like we’re a bunch of tweenagers–how many phones each person uses to vote.
  • Swapping stories with my fellow former classmates tonight at dinner.
What do you find the most challenging about parenting? The least?

Still occasionally wondering if we bonded well, if I messed the kids up for life, etc.  But I imagine other moms who didn’t go through PPD wonder this as well.  Also challenging… the age of 13.  EEYuh…challenging.  The least challenging–the easiest–is loving my beautiful, vibrant kids every day!


As fellow PSI Coordinators, we’ve had the concept of self-care proven to us time and again. What do YOU do for yourself that is not a need and soothes your soul?

The beach soothes me.  Body boarding especially, but just getting in the ocean water balances me in emotional and visceral ways.

You work with women struggling with PPD all the time. Tell us a bit about what made you decide to turn your experience into advocacy and support. How empowering is it to do what you do?

It is partly because I didn’t get the name for the exciting journey I had until five or so years later–Oprah had Marie Osmond on, talking about her book about some illness called “postpartum depression”.  I sat there pointing at the TV again and again. “That was ME! That was ME!!”  I finally had a name for it.  I Googled and found online information and bulletin boards where I then made myself at home.  It was because I could find nothing here to help with PPD, and with my experience on the boards that I decided to become an Area Coordinator with Postpartum Support International.  Might as well make some lemonade from the PPD lemons.

How empowering is doing what I do?  What I’ve done for 5 years now is telephone support, email support, a weekly support group, and some speaking.  –the support calls, email and the group empower the parents and are validating for both of us.  Speaking to groups still feels empowering; our recovered moms/volunteers get a chance to speak at various events. I remember my first time too–it was empowering.  People, providers, wanted to know what it is like, what could be done, how would you know.  And they listened.  There’s a threshold you cross when you speak publicly about your experience.  What a great question Lauren.  I have to tell my therapist how much it meant to me that she asked me to speak a number of times. It allowed me to step out of my shame and into myself.


Now that your children are older, have you spoken with them about your experience? If so, how did they handle the information? How do they feel about your current work with women?

They are around when I’ve been on phone calls with moms or providers, so they do hear my end of conversations occasionally.  It’s just a part of our lives.  I weave information in to our conversations when opportunities arrive, much like I have with sex education.  Dd just had one of those “pretend baby” exercises where she had to care for a hard-boiled egg for 2 weeks as if it were her baby.  Of course I wove in some PPD talk!


Last but not least, let’s say you have an opportunity to speak with an expectant mother (new or experienced) about Postpartum Mood Disorders. What would your advice be?

It would really depend on the situation.  I used to be tempted to pass out information to every new parent I saw, just so they could avoid the journey I endured.  Barring accosting new parents in the grocery aisles, what I would say though is that you’re not alone if you have a PMD, they are very treatable, they are not your fault and that honestly, I found a gift in my experience, eventually.  Maybe it was my biggest experience of “whatever doesn’t kill you outright makes you stronger.”  And in the case of PPD, as many mothers say, it loosens your judgments, revealing compassion.

Aloha!