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Promoting Access for Postpartum Depression Care in the State House 

Legislators in several states have moved to improve access to postpartum screening and services to treat postpartum depression.  

While the condition is common, screening has historically been subpar and treatment difficult to access due to insurance barriers. But that could be changing due to legislative proposals that would:  

  • Promote screening. In California, Georgia, Massachusetts, Kentucky and Minnesota, laws to provide new mothers with timely screening for perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, including postpartum depression, were proposed.  
  • Limit utilization management tactics. Arizona, Louisiana and New Jersey legislators considered proposals that would limit prior authorization and step therapy requirements for postpartum depression therapeutics, helping patients access treatment sooner.  

Changes like these would better support women at risk for maternal mental health issues, including postpartum depression, receive more timely and appropriate care.  

Recognizing Postpartum Depression 

Similar to other types of depression, postpartum depression symptoms can include low mood and energy, insomnia, thoughts of suicide, guilt and difficulty bonding with the newborn. With treatment, however, these symptoms can be treated in months or even as quickly as a few weeks. But left unaddressed, depression may persist for years, creating hardship not just in the mother-child bond, but for the whole family.  

The condition can be confusing. Mothers may feel guilty when depression strikes at a time that culture tells them they should be their happiest. Some mothers stay quiet because they don’t know that their symptoms are more significant than “baby blues,” or because they fear backlash due to stigma or concerns about having their fitness to parent questioned.  

But every mother should be screened and initiate treatment, if necessary.  

Treatment for Each Mom May Be Different 

Not all treatment plans will be the same, and following a patient-centered approach to determining the best course of care is necessary. Clinicians will complete an evaluation of symptom severity and consider the mother’s overall mental health, among other factors.  

Despite a guarantee in federal law that mental health should be treated equally to physical health concerns, insurers may try to steer patients toward a limited number of treatments. Legislation that limits these barriers has the potential to improve access to patient-centered care. 

At least one in seven new mothers will experience postpartum depression, and the condition is likely underreported. But with renewed efforts to improve access to screening and increase coverage for the full range of treatments, new moms are more likely to get the attention they deserve and the help they need to be their best selves.  

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