Video of Capitol Hill Press Conference celebrating enactment of MOTHER’S Act


As my regular readers know, I typically do not post anything beyond my Friday Soother on Fridays.

But this important and I know you will want to watch it.

The video is 33 minutes long but OH SO WORTH IT.

What a wonderful celebration!

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!

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.