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Addressing Postpartum Depression in Massachusetts


• Feeling constantly anxious and worried, the mother asked their pediatrician for help. If she hadn’t told them, they wouldn’t have asked. Unfortunately, they had no resources for her.

• Driving an hour was not a safe option for a woman who hadn’t slept for ten days. She asked, in tears, “Is there any one else who can help me?”

• Noticing a sign for a support group, the mother went to the hospital for help. She ended up sitting in a room by herself for an hour.

Each of these women were blindsided by postpartum depression. Each of them knew something was not right and they needed help. And each of these women, in their own way, called people together to improve support. They reached out to family groups, health care professionals, legislators and more. Coalitions, small and large groups, convened to address those gaps in care. Slowly, though surely, the situation is changing.

To improve awareness of postpartum depression, for health care professionals, families and others, two particular organizations, MotherWoman and the Every Mother Project, provide trainings to educate the community about postpartum mood disorders. If you are a health care provider, nanny, family member, doula…. you can sign up for these trainings.

Spurred by the stories of families, a Special Commission on Postpartum Depression was formed in the Massachusetts Legislature. Representative Ellen Story and Senator Joan Lovely have been the co-chairs.

One of the tasks assigned to this commission was to review PPD screening policies and practices, and to help develop referral lists.

Pediatricians (or others) often did not ask about postpartum depression because they had little time during a visit, did not understand it’s importance, or know where to refer a family if they did need help. Requiring pediatricians to screen for PPD was a first step. Having that time and service covered by insurance has been another critical point.

Once PPD is identified, where can a family get timely help?  An important service for a family’s urgent need is MCPAP for Moms. This is part of the Massachusetts Child Psychiatry Assess Project (MCPAP). Health care providers can find the appropriate help for a family and get them connected within a day, rather than in months.

If you are a parent needing help, you can tell your pediatrician, obstetrician, midwife or doctor about this one resource. Hopefully they already know. When funding for MCPAP was threatened, Representative Ellen Story and others on the PPD Commission spoke up to keep this in the budget.

From across the commonwealth, perinatal services and legislators meet and share information. In this way, we are weaving a tighter safety net for all families. This annual gathering is called “Bringing Postpartum Depression Into the Light: Postpartum Awareness Day”. It’s sponsored by the Special Commission on Postpartum Depression. Presenting this at the State House (see photo) takes it out of the shadows and makes it more relevant to the public.

Awareness of postpartum depression and other mood disorders has improved. It’s an ongoing endeavor. We still need to improve more thorough support for families.

If you are living with or witnessing Postpartum Depression, here are four resources for you.
Postpartum Support International 
• “It’s not just depression. And it’s not just postpartum”
• Jewish Family and Child Services/Center for Early Relationship Support. (You do not have to be Jewish. They offer many services for families.)
• North Shore Postpartum Help

Like the three women I described, you can “speak the truth, even when your voice shakes.” Someone will hear you. Let your legislators know what is important to you and what makes a difference.