Melanie Blocker Stoke MOTHERS Act on Postpartum Depression Passed House, Moves to Senate

By Rachel Walden — April 8, 2009

Recently, the Melanie Blocker Stoke MOTHERS Act, sponsored by Rep. Bobby Rush of Illinois, passed in the House and has now been referred to the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. It is intended to “provide for research on, and services for individuals with, postpartum depression and psychosis.”

The legislation provides for research on the causes, frequency, screening, diagnosis, and treatment of postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis, as well as “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.”

It also allows grants to be made to support programs that provide health care, support services and education to new mothers and their families and individuals at risk for postpartum depression, and to make sure health care providers are properly trained about postpartum conditions.

The bill [HR 20] passed the House by a wide margin, with only 8 votes (all Republican) against passage. It has been sponsored in the Senate by Robert Menendez of New Jersey as S 324.

Perinatal Pro has been providing information on the legislation and have a list of organizations who have signed on in support of the bill – information for those wishing to register their support (including individuals, organizations, and blogs) is provided here. Katherine Stone at the blog Postpartum Progress and the folks at the Postpartum Dads Project have also been writing in support of the MOTHERS Act, and Postpartum Support International – a good general resource on this issue – is posting legislative updates.

14 responses to “Melanie Blocker Stoke MOTHERS Act on Postpartum Depression Passed House, Moves to Senate”

  1. Thank you SO MUCH for sharing this with your readers. Our Bodies, Ourselves is such a credible, well-known source and the fact that you would write about this bill is so amazing, given that I know your readers are concerned about women’s health. I’m 39 years old, and I remember my mother showing me the Our Bodies, Ourselves book when I was a teen. Thank you for everything you do to educate and empower women.

    Just so you know, there are people who are against this bill because they believe mandatory screening is wrong (the bill does not call for mandatory screening of women — the word mandatory applies to requiring doctors to offer the screen, and that is simply something they would research as to its feasibility and effectiveness) and because they think the bill promotes drugs as the treatment method for these illnesses (it clearly does not, should you read the bill). Actually, the proponents of this bill that I know (and I’m not talking about pharmaceutical companies here, who of course have their own agendas) are interested only in women’s recovery and ability to care for their families, not which type of treatment method is used.

    As someone who suffered this illness, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for caring.

  2. I had a hell of a time after my c-section with PPD; it got to the point where I was seriously contemplating suicide so I wouldn’t freak out and hurt my son at some point. Only after talking to a nurse about how I was feeling (exhausted, resentful, angry, sad, etc etc etc) and her telling me that I was actually depressed and not a BAD MOTHER!!! could I get passed it and move forward. It still took months after that for me to get back to ‘normal’. All my actual doctor did was listen to my symptoms and offer me Prozac.

  3. I too, would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart for this update you have included on your website.

    It is so important for this bill to pass. I work tirelessly as a volunteer for Postpartum Support International to support new parents as they work through the confusion of Postpartum Mood Disorders. I have struggled with a PMD and been refused treatment so I know how dark it can get without knowledge and support present. I have also had the amazing experience of wonderful care. Between the two, I would much rather prefer educated care. The passage of this bill is such a tremendous light at the end of the tunnel for so many!

    Thank you again for all the work you do to help women as they journey through life.

  4. As a mother who was screened, drugged, involuntarily hospitalized, and who experienced the frequent reaction to antidepressants of HOMICIDAL ideation, hallucinations, and suicidal urges, I have been warning people for years about the dangers of antidepressants and other drugs. Those who condone and promote drugs are either ignorant, misled, or have other motives for doing so.

    If a doctor tells you he won’t prescribe drugs to you while you’re pregnant or nursing (or otherwise), it’s for good reasons. SInce 2002 there have been over 60 FDA warnings on antidepressants for everything from suicides to birth defects. However currently one third of all pregnant mothers are exposed to psychotropic drugs at some point during pregnancy. It’s hard to argue that we have an issue of “undertreatment” going on.

    If you can’t imagine what will happen when these drug promoters start implementing the MOTHERS Act, just look at this playlist to see what happens to women who go on these drugs during childbearing years, or just go to their website and see how often antidepressants are mentioned or promoted:

    Think we don’t have forced treatment in this country happening to mothers every day? Wrong! Think not enough mothers have been brainwashed to think antidepressants are the way to go? Wrong! Think any of the people commenting on this blog above are out there warning mothers about the risks of antidepressants? Wrong again.

    The MOTHERS Act does not provide for informed consent, and its advocates have consistently refused to add provisions to the bill that would ensure informed consent takes place in any screening, treatment, research, and prevention programs resulting from it.

  5. The post is a totally biased, one-sided presentation of not enough information for a mother to make an informed decision.

    The comments are totally one-sided except for the last one.

    The other side of this issue can be obtained by going to the following website:

    To have a baby born to a mother who was on antidepressants for most of the pregnancy is like something out of a Stephen King horror novel. Because the baby will start manifesting symptoms of withdrawal until given more of the antidepressant. These drugs will begin harming that baby from the moment the mother starts taking them and that is wrong and needs to be stopped.

  6. As far as I can tell, there is nothing at all in the bill that mandates or even privileges antidepressant treatment. I realize there’s a bit of a meme out there that this legislation is supposedly all about privileging pharmaceutical companies, but there is really nothing in it that explicitly does that. What, exactly, then is biased about explaining what is in the proposed legislation?

  7. In New Jersey women who call the post partum depression hotline are apparently given a free ride in police cars to the hospital and people look in the window and think they are criminals. There is probably nothing about that in the New Jersey bill but it apparently happens. And if you really expect us to believe that a woman is not going to be prescribed antidepressants and forced on to them once inside the hospital emergency room then that seems to be a little bit of an exit from reality on your part. If you don’t believe antidepressants are harmful than by all means don’t go to http://www.ssristores and read the linked newspaper accounts of what happens with these drugs. What a bill says will happen and what actually happens can be two different things. And you really need all the information on BOTH SIDES of the issue for a mother actually be able to make an informed decision so that her right to informed consent has been respected.

  8. I want to be clear that I don’t want to be dismissive of concerns that women have choices in treatment, are not forced onto a drug regimen, that there is adequate information about the safety and efficacy of the treatment women do get for postpartum depression. I think those are very important issues. But I am struggling to understand why it is that so many people are preemptively assuming that this bill will directly lead to women being forced onto antidepressants against their will, when that doesn’t seem to be the intent at all. (And this is my personal opinion/question, not speaking for OBOS as a whole)

  9. There is nothing whatsoever in the bill that requires mandatory screening. NOTHING. I wish people would stop passing along misinformation and read the bill. Read it yourself here:

    Additionally, there is no reason for a woman with a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder to be in an emergency room (with the exception of postpartum psychosis) where you fear that she will be forced to take antidepressants. These are not emergent situations and can be handled in a local clinicians office.

    Furthermore, it is a generalization to state that women who take antidepressants while pregnant is something out of a Stephen King horror novel. My daughter is not out of a Stephen King horror novel — she’s perfectly fine. Are there risks to these or any medicines taken during pregnancy? Absolutely. But I think the opposition loses credibility every time they take their concerns that far.

  10. There’s nothing in the bill about informed consent and without informed consent you can have mandatory screening and mandatory drugging. The problem is that bill supporters are passing along the fundamental misinformation that antidepressants taken by a pregnant woman will not hurt the unborn child. If you follow that logic it’s totally okay for a pregnant woman to smoke crack because the crack won’t harm the baby or if the baby somehow is born healthy even though the woman smoked a lot of crack that crack is somehow totally safe! And that just isn’t true. Why put millions of women and the unborn at risk for the harmful side effects that accompany the taking of antidepressants just because there are some women who feel they haven’t been harmed by antidepressants? It doesn’t make sense. Until you look at the money that has changed hands on this and the agendas of the early sponsors of this bill and supposed “grassroots” organizations that are secretly corporate funded and do not reflect the viewpoint of the public. It would be great if their could be investigation into just how much money has changed hands in order to get this bill which supposedly doesn’t advocate mandatory screening.

  11. Really the main objection to the Melanie Blocker Stoke MOTHERS Act being passed is that women taking antidepressants during pregnancy are at increased risk of their child being born with birth defects. And when a bill is passed that will enable millions of mothers to be placed on antidepressants while pregnant, it allows them to be strongly encouraged to take drugs that could cause birth defects in their child. I don’t think the pharmaceutical companies and so-called “grass roots” front groups for the drug companies have the right to place millions of women and their unborn at risk when taking these drugs. You can explain it away any way you like but there is even a psychiatrist who has written a book concerning this risk. In the book “Rethinking Psychiatric Drugs: A Guide for Informed Consent,” Dr. Grace Jackson seems to be maintaining that prescribing SSRIs to women during their pregnancy is dangerous because clinical research seems to indicate that antidepessants can directly negatively affect the healthy development of the human embryo. Why pass a bill that greatly increases the possibility of millions of women taking that risk unless its just a marketing scheme to increase sales profit market share for the antidepressant makers among a particular population segment?

  12. U.S. Rep. Ron Paul recently introduced an Informed Consent Bill for parents of children prescribed psych drugs that is also needed to protect pregnant mothers.

    Madam Speaker, I rise to introduce the Parental Consent Act. This bill forbids Federal funds from being used for any universal or mandatory mental-health screening of students without the express, written, voluntary, informed consent of their parents or legal guardians. This bill protects the fundamental right of parents to direct and control the upbringing and education of their children.

    The New Freedom Commission on Mental Health has recommended that the federal and state governments work toward the implementation of a comprehensive system of mental-health screening for all Americans. The commission recommends that universal or mandatory mental-health screening first be implemented in public schools as a prelude to expanding it to the general public. However, neither the commission’s report nor any related mental-health screening proposal requires parental consent before a child is subjected to mental-health screening. Federally-funded universal or mandatory mental-health screening in schools without parental consent could lead to labeling more children as “ADD” or “hyperactive” and thus force more children to take psychotropic drugs, such as Ritalin, against their parents’ wishes.

    Already, too many children are suffering from being prescribed psychotropic drugs for nothing more than children’s typical rambunctious behavior. According to Medco Health Solutions, more than 2.2 million children are receiving more than one psychotropic drug at one time. In fact, according to Medico Trends, in 2003, total spending on psychiatric drugs for children exceeded spending on antibiotics or asthma medication.

    Many children have suffered harmful side effects from using psychotropic drugs. Some of the possible side effects include mania, violence, dependence, and weight gain. Yet, parents are already being threatened with child abuse charges if they resist efforts to drug their children. Imagine how much easier it will be to drug children against their parents’ wishes if a federally-funded mental-health screener makes the recommendation.

    Universal or mandatory mental-health screening could also provide a justification for stigmatizing children from families that support traditional values. Even the authors of mental-health diagnosis manuals admit that mental-health diagnoses are subjective and based on social constructions. Therefore, it is all too easy for a psychiatrist to label a person’s disagreement with the psychiatrist’s political beliefs a mental disorder. For example, a federally-funded school violence prevention program lists “intolerance” as a mental problem that may lead to school violence. Because “intolerance” is often a code word for believing in traditional values, children who share their parents’ values could be labeled as having mental problems and a risk of causing violence. If the mandatory mental-health screening program applies to adults, everyone who believes in traditional values could have his or her beliefs stigmatized as a sign of a mental disorder. Taxpayer dollars should not support programs that may label those who adhere to traditional values as having a “mental disorder.”

  13. Another reason to oppose this latest fraud of A.P.A., W.P.A., NAMI psychiatry is that it renders things such as postpartum depression (for which their is good import medical information out there) transmogrified into yet another fake D.S.M.4 type, nebulous pseudo-diagnosis. There will be no medical physical test. “Diagnosis” will be by D.S.M. check list, and “professional opinion.” They will be scientifically studying the problem for 50 years (as in the fraud of ADHD). Treatment will be Patented Billable Prescription foreign-to-the-body drugging agents that cannot cure anything and cause great suffering. Their will be calls to avoid Stigma, and a National Awareness Month and Campaign that NAMI can be involved in.

    In the Limbo propaganda swill of A.P.A., N.I.M.H., D.S.M. psychiatry there is no room for medicine and science. So, as with the fraud of A.D.H.D. the Mother’s Act suppresses actual medical knowledge by creating a fake disease and fake treatments acording to their usual propaganda templates.

    As in ADHD which replaced attention deficit, hyperactivity and minimal brain dysfunction with their fake label of some nebulous real single disease needing Ritlain and Adderal for 5 decades in a row. Where Dr. Feingold’s information on Salicylates was labelled false quack medicine by the Ritalin Pushers of the A.P.A.; and with Parris M. Kidd, PhD’s articles on attention deficit treatment and Phosphatidyl Serine were likewise suppressed (and on and on, all medical science shoved aside for the Fraud’s sake) – all medical treatments and knowledge suppressed so that their ersatz D.S.M. type disorder/diseases “diagnosed” by APA “psychiatrists” could sell vast amounts of toxic drugging agents for psychiatric labels of as-yet-unknown-etiology, but very real, and “We are sure Researching at the NIMH with Dr. E Fuller Torrey’s help!!” $$$ Selling their patients for Money. As with “ADHD” and other of their Bogus Labels, there IS underlying medical information that Could help people, if the available treatment system were not controlled by worm-tounged sociopathic con-men.

    People are often nutrient deficient and pregnancies, nursing and stress increase nutrient depletion. Key in the, (to-be-forgotten) medical information are B-6 (needed to produce Serotonin and for Hormone Regulation in the brain, deficient in Americans and especially pregnant woman. DHA omega-3 fatty acid which is used by the growing fetus especially in the third trimestor iformaking brain cell walls, and then by the new born nursing infant. Giving pregnant mothers fluroinated or chlorinated SSRI drugs and ignoring DHA means that instead of getting healthy babies with better functioning brains and mothers without postpartum depression we get insead babies who did not get that advantage, babies that are still born from the toxic SSRIs or need immediate open heart surgery. Mothers who become psychotic from the SSRI drugs. DHA, B-6, Magnesium, Vitamins C and E these are some top medical concepts. None of this, no medical scientific knowledge, will make it through the propaganda strainer of the Fraudulent Abusive Manipulative Zero Conscence Psychopharmacology Money Machine. The absolute greatest amount of sales is their major bottom line and birth defects sterility reduced intellegence sickness and early death are gravey for the people at the top of the rat race heap in NAMI APA NIMH Big Pharma Psychiatry. Do they care that a womans baby is still born instead of vibrant -Not One Pennies Worth.

    Mother’s medical need for Omega-3, Zinc, B-Vitamins and Vitamin C.

    Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Psychiatric Disorders

    “The physiology of pregnancy involves the mobilization of polyunsaturated fatty acids from maternal stores to the fetus, and supplementation with essential fatty acids may ensure adequate supplies for the needs of the mother and the developing fetus. Hornstra et al. (1995) demonstrated that maternal essential fatty acids, especially the DHA proportion, progressively decrease during pregnancy.

    Without sufficient dietary intake, mothers become depleted of DHA, and depletion of maternal n-3 fatty acids has been noted during pregnancy (Otto et al., 1997). Lactation may increase the period needed for DHA to return to normal levels (Otto et al., 2001). Multiple births exacerbate the DHA deficiency (Al et al., 2000). Maternal DHA can be reduced by 50% during pregnancy and not fully restored at 6 months postpartum (Holman et al., 1991; Al et al., 1995).

    Mothers selectively transfer DHA via a placental membrane fatty acid-binding protein to their fetuses to enable optimal neurological development during pregnancy (Campbell et al., 1998; Dutta-Roy, 2000; Martin et al., 2000).”

    Pregnancy is a time of increased nutritional requirements

    “The essential fatty acids (EFAs) and some of their derivatives are of utmost nutritional importance during pregnancy and lactation (8) . During the last trimester of pregnancy and the first months after birth, major developments in the growth and maturation of the infants central nervous system (CNS) and sensory apparatus, such as the eyes, take place.”

    “Omega-3 and omega-6 fats are both important, but cannot be interchanged as they are not the same, very much like both vitamin C and E are important vitamins and antioxidants, without one being able to do the job of the other one. Only getting enough of one is better than not getting enough of either, but getting enough of both and in a balanced ratio is the best.”

    “The reason why DHA has been emphasized so much is very likely the general deficiency of omega-3 fatty acids in modern industrial diets and the general imbalance between omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. Ideally, it should be no more than 4-5:1, but research estimates that modern diets often contain in excess of 14:1 (24) ; other studies show that the ratio is in between 10:1 to 25:1 (22). Too little of either of these fatty acids can lead to impaired development and functioning of the childs central nervous system (18, 19, 21) with the suspected possibility of lowered IQ and decreased visual acuity (6) .”

    “Animal studies show that severe EFA deficiency during pregnancy leads to more severe deficiencies in mental and sensory capability (20) . There also appears to be a connection between maternal omega-3 status and the length of gestation: The lower the serum levels of omega-3 fatty acids, the greater the chance of giving birth prematurely (22, 25) . Finally, women with postpartum depression lack omega-3 fatty acids compared to women who gave birth without any problems (16). ”

    The Link Between Diet and Behavior

    “However, the conversion of shorter-chain EFAs to longer-chain PUFAs in humans is poor. It is also affected by many diet and lifestyle factors including excessive consumption of saturated fats, hydrogenated fats and trans fatty acids; lack of co-factors such as zinc, magnesium, vitamins B3, B6 and C; viral infections and the presence of hormones released in response to stress”

    Supplementation with a combination of Omega 3 fatty acid and antioxidants (vitamins E and C) improves the outcome of schizophrenia

    Meena Arvindakshan, Madhav Ghate, Prabhakar K. Ranjekar, Denise R. Evans, Sahebarao P. Mahadik

    Healthy Mom and Baby

    Mothers who ate more seafood than was considered to be safe according to U.S. guidelines had children who were more advanced. They had higher IQs, better social skills, were more communicative and more physically accomplished. Those children whose mothers had eaten no fish performed worse on all the same measures.

    As Dr. Hibbeln wrote in their report:

    • “We have found that when women had low levels of seafood consumption, the outcome is exactly the opposite of what was assumed by the United States Advisory. Unfortunately, the advice appears to have had the unintended consequence of causing harm in a specific developmental domain – verbal development – where protection was originally intended.

    • “We recorded no evidence to lend support to the warnings of the U.S. advisory that pregnant women should limit their seafood consumption.

    • “In contrast, we noted that children of mothers who ate small amounts, 340 grams per week, of seafood were more likely to have suboptimum neurodevelopmental outcomes than children of mothers who ate more seafood than the recommended amounts.”

  14. I am wondering if the Melanie Blocker Stoke MOTHER Act has any provision for natural therapies, particularly nutrient therapies that are often necessary to deal with basic issues at the root of something like Postpartum Depression.

    Since nutritional issues are usually involved with depression, particularly PPD, it is critically important to use the nutritional assessment and treatment approach to get at the bottom of the situation and achieve the best results.

    Are nutritional therapies actively being researched and used along with other methods?

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