Any woman who has suffered through postpartum depression knows both how devastating it is and, if we received treatment, how fortunate we were to get help. Luckily, thanks to a bill recently passed by Congress, soon every woman will be able to get screened and treated for postpartum depression.
Approximately 600,000 women experience postpartum depression every year (that's more than the number of people who will sprain their ankles or have a stroke) and some fear that the actual number may be as high as 1 million. Of those women, only 15 percent currently receive treatment. There are a number of reasons for this. Some women aren't educated about PPD. Some are but don't seek help due to the stigma attached. Some doctors don't provide regular screenings for PPD. Additionally, many women can't afford any of the treatment options.
In an effort to help the thousands of women who suffer alone, last week Congress passed the "Bringing Postpartum Depression Out of the Shadows Act." This legislation will provide grants to states to "establish, expand, or maintain culturally competent programs for screening and treatment of women who are pregnant, or who have given birth within the preceding 12 months, for maternal depression."
PPD can be debilitating and, in some cases, fatal. A study published in a 2013 edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association Psychiatry found that 1 in 5 women with PPD thought about harming themselves and that "suicide accounts for about 20% of postpartum deaths and is the second most common cause of mortality in postpartum women." But even for women who never think about hurting themselves, PPD can be overwhelming.
I assumed I would be fine after I gave birth to my twins in 2008, especially considering that I had gone through infertility and IVF in order to have them. But I wasn't. Far from it. I thought my life was over and could see only misery and darkness ahead. I could barely function. Thankfully, the nurse practitioner at my six-week postpartum appointment noticed something was wrong and put me on the path to recovery. I can't imagine how I would have made it without her help.
Now, thanks to H.R. 3235, more women will be informed about PPD, and most important, will have access to the help they need and deserve.
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