Cuomo Signs Bill To Help Maternal Depression

ALBANY – Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has signed a bill designed to provide support for women facing maternal depression during pregnancy and following childbirth.

The new law will provide educational services, as well as promote screening and treatment for maternal depression disorders.

“Maternal depression is a serious condition that impacts families of all backgrounds, but today we are tackling the issue head-on with a new law that will improve services and increase awareness across the state,” Cuomo said. “This legislation better equips our healthcare system to recognize and treat maternal depression, helping families statewide to better detect and treat this condition. I thank the bill sponsors for their hard work and leadership on this important issue, and I am proud to sign it into law.”

Despite the widespread nature and severity of maternal depression, the state’s healthcare system has had no system-wide screening and referral procedure for postpartum depression. The new law, Senate bill 7234B and Assembly bill 9610B, provides information and guidelines on maternal depression screening; information on follow-up support and referrals; and public education to promote awareness of and de-stigmatize maternal depression. In addition, the legislation is intended to ensure that New Yorkers are informed of the public health services that will help them understand, identify and treat maternal depression.

Maternal depression is broadly defined as a wide range of emotional and psychological reactions a woman may experience during pregnancy or after childbirth. Each year, approximately 10 to 15 percent of all mothers develop postpartum depression. Postpartum psychosis, the most severe form of maternal depression, often includes auditory hallucinations and delusions, and in some cases visual hallucinations. Women whose maternal depression is severe enough to be considered postpartum psychosis have a 5 percent suicide rate and 4 percent infanticide rate.

Often, the symptoms of maternal depression are not immediately identified because they resemble those generally associated with pregnancy. As a result, maternal depression is sometimes left untreated, and may result in a detrimental impact on the entire family, especially the newborn and other children in the family. In addition, maternal depression is often undetected and untreated by maternal health care providers due to both lack of training in identifying the condition and lack of support both professionally and financially, as well as concerns about the availability of treatment options and coverage identified with maternal depression.

Early screening and identification of postpartum depression has an 80 to 90 percent success rate and offers long-term health care costs savings. Women typically visit their obstetrician and gynecologist during pregnancy and visit the pediatrician for their infant’s check-ups more often than they would any other health professional. Therefore, these maternal health care providers are in an ideal position to screen women for maternal depression.