Yesterday morning, I was invited to attend a press conference at Valley Hospital in Ridgewood, NJ, with U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Former New Jersey First Lady Mary Jo Codey, Audrey Meyers, President of Valley Hospital, Dr. Fred Rezvani, Chair of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Sylvia Lasalandra, author of A Daughter’s Touch, and Susan Dowd Stone, Chair of the President’s Advisory Council for Postpartum Support International.
The press conference was held to discuss how passage of the Melanie Blocker Stokes MOTHERS Act (S324) would benefit thousands of mothers in this country each year through an increase in public awareness, education and support services, as well as clarify misconceptions about this legislation–for example, the bill does NOT mandate screening; what it will do is increase research to ensure early detection and treatment of perinatal mood disorders. He indicated his mission to pass the MOTHERS Act was inspired, in part, by Mary Jo Codey’s personal brush with a postpartum mood disorder and her resolve that contributed to the establishment of the New Jersey Postpartum Depression Law that took effect back in April 2006, which includes the Speak Up When You’re Down literature, website, and 24/7 hotline. Senator Menendez emphasized that postpartum depression is not just a disease that affects the mother…..the whole family is affected.
Mary Jo Codey and Sylvia Lasalandra spoke about their serious and life-changing experiences with postpartum depression. I’ve heard their stories several times now, but they still succeed in bringing tears to my eyes, as they brought tears to several others in the audience today. Both of these brave women stated their full support of the legislation that would provide information made available nationally to help educate the public about perinatal mood disorders to hopefully, once and for all, overcome the myths and stigma that have worked to keep mothers from getting help when they need it. It’s time for mothers to stop suffering in silence.
Dr. Fred Rezvani, Chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Valley Hospital in Ridgewood NJ, started his excellent speech with the history of PPD that begins with the first written account dating back to Hippocrates, the centuries that elapsed before scientists performed any research on perinatal mood disorders in the 1800’s, and the momentum that has picked up over the past few years. Dr. Resvani provided a slew of statistics that included PPD occurrence in 10-20% of new mothers, but he tended to believe those figures are understated, with 25% being closer to reality because women tend to suffer in silence due to stigma and fear of what would happen if they spoke up. He mentions how other countries practice social support customs that help the new mother get through the first weeks postpartum–what this country is so lacking and undoubtedly a contributing factor to the high rates of PPD here. While other countries have paid maternity leaves of several months in duration–not to mention paid paternity leaves–many companies in this country still require the woman to return to work 6 weeks after giving birth, and there is no paid paternity leave. What our society needs to do is adapt an attitude that is more supportive of the mother as she transitions into motherhood. He expressed his heartfelt desire to help mothers but he–along with all the other OB/GYNs, GPs, pediatricians, psychiatrists, psychologists, etc. throughout the country–can only do so much right now with the limited resources available to them to ensure early detection, proper diagnosis and improved treatment options that include alternative treatments. He is in full support of this bill because it will not only provide opportunities to improve on existing screening methodologies such as the Edinburgh Postpartum Depression Scale, it will also provide funding/grants for various forms of support services to be provided to mothers by private, not-for-profit or public entities in the first months postpartum.
During the press conference, several references were made with respect to how Senator Coburn (R-OK) has been stubbornly opposed to the bill–even despite the fact that he is an OB/GYN– and it should be interesting given how Rachel Roberts, who was just crowned Mrs. Oklahoma International, is a postpartum depression survivor and will continue her postpartum depression awareness mission that she started during her Mrs. Tulsa days. Please visit her website.
The press conference concluded with Susan Dowd Stone presenting to Senator Menendez the list of national organizations and individuals who have signed the petition in support of the legislation.
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It’s not too late to sign the petition in support of this long overdue legislation! Please click here to sign the online petition and show your support for this critical federal legislation!