April 13, 2010 is 4th Anniversary of New Jersey’s Postpartum Depression Law

Four years ago today, New Jersey became the first state in the country to pass legislation requiring healthcare professionals to educate and screen all new mothers for postpartum depression (PPD). 

Since then, New Jersey’s Dept of Health and Senior Services’ Speak Up When You’re Down campaign has:

The key to helping mothers and their families minimize the risk (or effects, if it does occur) of PPD is early identification (via screening) and education (via awareness campaigns and ensuring healthcare providers are all aware).   Through knowledge of risk factors, symptoms, and services available locally, mothers and their families will be able to recognize sumptoms of PPD early on, as well as take immediate action to ensure proper diagnosis and treatment.

I’d just like to clarify what screening is.  It sounds like poking and prodding is involved.  No, women are not treated like lab rats or anything like that.  Screening is merely a doctor proactively asking some questions to ascertain whether a new mother entrusted to his care is exhibiting any signs of PPD.   The most widely-used screening tool for PPD is The Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS), which many hospitals in New Jersey have elected to use.   It’s also important to note that, though doctors are required to screen all new mothers in their care, a mother has the right to refuse to answer some or all of the questions. 

I wish this legislation were in effect back when I had my daughter!  There are many others that feel the same way as I do.  Before this legislation went into effect four years ago, some doctors were already asking all new moms fundamental questions at each visit to ascertain if there are any symptoms of PPD, since after all it does occur in as many as one in eight new mothers!  One of the reasons why this legislation was necessary is because there are still so many doctors out there who don’t go the extra mile where their patients are concerned–and worse fail to diagnose PPD properly.  The screening should currently be taking place as the new mom leaves the hospital after having her baby, plus at her 6-week follow-up with her OB/GYN.   Since so many cases of PPD develop before the six-week follow-up visit, at some point–and I fear this may never happen because it would require a huge change in health insurance and ACOG (and whatever other organization that would have anything to do with this) — a 3- or 4-week follow-up visit becomes a requirement/standard.    What a HUGE difference this would make, wouldn’t it?!   Maybe if enough people push for this, it will happen.  One can only hope…and dream.

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2 thoughts on “April 13, 2010 is 4th Anniversary of New Jersey’s Postpartum Depression Law

  1. What’s the difference between regular depression and post-partum (besides obviously that PPD is after you have a baby)? I’ve suffered from depression since my early teens, never used medication as treatment, and never considered myself “cured” but consider the good times to be times when my depression is in “remission” kinda like cancer. Anyway, I just had a baby boy a little over a month ago, and I’m definately experiecing more than “the baby blues.” I already plan to talk to my doctor about this at my appointment next tuesday, but I want to know–how would I know (or the doctor know) whether it’s PostPartum Depression or my regular depression back? What’s the real difference?

    Thank you.

    • Katy,
      I see you posted 4 comments in a row on my blog, just on different posts…strange thing is in each comment you provide completely different descriptions of your current situation, as if you are 4 different people. So, I’m just going to answer your latest comment. There is not a whole lot of difference between depression and PPD with respect to symptoms. I believe that–and you should really check with the PPD experts like Postpartum Support Int’l on such a topic–it’s in the biopsychosocial factors that trigger it (e.g., huge hormonal fluctuations, added stressors relating to childcare and uncertainties, lack of adequate emotional/practical support), and the timing (anytime after childbirth, and even up to 2 yrs if weaning then). If you have a history of depression, you are at higher risk for PPD onset. The blues resolves on its own within the first 2-3 weeks after giving birth. If you had your baby a month ago, then you should speak with your doctor about treatment options for PPD (usually medication, therapy or a combination of the 2). The severity of your symptoms would help determine treatment. Check out the blog Postpartum Progress and the PSI website (www.postpartum.net) for helpful info. Good luck with the doctor’s appt. Wishing you well.

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