Every pregnant and new mother, regardless of her geographical location, race, marital status, sexual orientation or socioeconomic status should have the right to enjoy, as the World Health Organization states, the “highest attainable standard of mental health.” In order to do this, our nonprofit Postpartum Progress believes you should have certain rights.
The Postpartum Progress Maternal Mental Health Bill of Rights
1. You have the right to be heard fully about your perinatal mental health without dismissal, stigma or downplay of your concerns or symptoms. You have the right to be treated with dignity and respect.
2. You have the right to be screened for perinatal mood and anxiety disorders like postpartum depression by trained health care providers using an evidence-based screening tool delivered with compassion and professionalism. They should inform you of the purpose of the screening tool, what the results of your screen are, and how those results will be used to help you.
3. You have the right to be treated by healthcare providers who give you accurate information about perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, including:
- factors that may put you at risk
- the wide variety of symptoms women may experience
- the difference between normal new mom stress and postpartum depression
- the difference between postpartum psychosis and other perinatal mood and anxiety disorders
- the fact that symptoms can appear any time during pregnancy or within the first year postpartum, and may last beyond the first year without treatment
- the fact that you can continue to breastfeed while being treated for perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, and you can also choose to stop breastfeeding if it’s the best choice for you
- the long-term impact on both you and your child of untreated perinatal mood and anxiety disorders
4. You have the right to be informed of the variety of evidence-based treatment options for perinatal mood and anxiety disorders like postpartum depression, anxiety/OCD, and postpartum psychosis. Your healthcare provider should discuss what you may experience with treatment, including potential side effects, how long it make take for treatments to fully take effect, and how to reach him or her if there are problems. You have the right to know your treatment options and take part in decisions about your care. You have the right to ask about the pros and cons of any treatment, including no treatment at all. You have the right to timely treatment.
5. You have the right to seek a second opinion, or to ask for a referral to a mental health specialist.
6. You have the right to be supported by those around you with respect and dignity as you recover from this serious illness.
Pregnant and new moms, if you are concerned you have a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder like postpartum depression, please know there are hundreds of thousands of other women who are, right now, having the same experience you are. You are not alone. These are real illnesses, they are not your fault, and they don’t make you a bad mom. PPD is temporary and treatable with professional help.
I absolutely agree with the statement by the WHO. I am happy to say Postpartum Progress, Postpartum Support International, the California Maternal Mental Health Coalition, and Regroup Therapy are all doing our part. PSI and the CMMHC provide training to educate providers about perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, and Regroup Therapy works to connect and provide skilled providers with women who need help with access to good providers. http://www.regrouptherapy.com
here, here, Pec!
Although most ‘trained healthcare providers’ may have very little training concerning PPD and therefore unable to recognize or accept as a real condition that warrants treatment and not dismissal. I’m a mental health professional and will start by sharing this so that moms to be and new moms can learn and advocate for themselves.
Moms advocating for themselves is WHERE IT’S AT.
Well done! I manage a program called Mental Health First Aid USA and I would like to link to your site. May I?
Absolutely, Bryan! The more women we reach the better. 😉
Thank you for sharing this!! I re-posted it on my blog: http://wellnesspearland.com/the-postpartum-progress-maternal-mental-health-bill-of-rights/.
Were there two versions of this? I could swear the first time I read it the part “you can also choose to stop breastfeeding if it’s the best choice for you” was not included, and the person who reposted it below doesn’t have that bit in there.
Regardless, that part is crucial to the well-being of so many moms, and I hope that anyone else who reposts your work will include that bit. Breastfeeding is not best, formula is not best. What is best is what is the healthy choice for all involved. I firmly believe the extreme pressure placed on moms by health care providers and online lactivists to exclusively breastfeed for two years, as well as society’s pressure to not breastfeed/pump in public, at work, or anywhere outside the home are responsible for either creating or exacerbating many cases of post-partum disorders.
We added it Teri to make sure it was clear we aren’t advocating one choice over another. We don’t. We just want to make sure women know they can do either, regardless of what anyone else tells them, and at the same time be treated for their own mental health. They don’t have to sacrifice their health for their children’s.
Perfect. I love it and totally agree. Thanks!
The evidence is pretty clear that being unable to breastfeed (usually due to iatrogenic interference aka booby traps), being unsupported in breastfeeding when a woman wants to do so and being repeatedly told/encouraged to stop actually increases the risk of postpartum depression. Physiologically, nursing releases many hormones which can help reduce depression for many women. Women who truly want to quit should obviously do so, but women who want to continue should receive real support and help. I know for myself that I already felt like a failure at birthing, failing at nursing was not an option and would have been utterly devastating, making an already serious depression even worse.
Additionally, I see the above points do not make any mention of women who seek treatment being protected from overzealous CPS investigations and risk of losing their children because they sought help. There have been numerous stories of care providers calling on mother’s who seek treatment for depression and are in no way a risk to anyone except, possibly, themselves. Even the majority of women with postpartum psychosis are often not a risk to their children and even those who are should not risk losing their children permanently because they sought help.
One final point, there is no mention of post-partum PTSD, which, while often occurring along with PPD, is a separate problem requiring different treatment.
Thank you for sharing these important points. ~ K
im sharing my story now on my blog about my battle with postpartum. first my story and today my daughters story. this couldn’t be more timely. i agree with it all.
I agree. I think screening should come from both OB/GYN and pediatrician. I know the ped can’t actually refer you, but they can at least recognize and recommend you seek assistance. I remember being in my son’s 6 month appt barely being able to hold back tears because I was having such a hard time adjusting and was just told, “it’ll get better.”
THANK YOU. seriously. xo
Amen, Katherine. Truth. Thank you. As always, you are a trailblazer among the many fighting for moms and their well being, most especially mental health. xo
Wow, when will this be passed into law? I had every one of those rights violated in my situation.
I am so afraid I will be separted from my children if I say anything about how I feel is there any insight as to what happens after a healthcare professional is informed of condition? I feel like I am crazy like I will hurt my baby but I dont want to do it. I hate my husband for no reason i am always hysterical about any little thing please help I cant take it anymore and I am beyond terrified.
I completely understand that Viv. It is scary. The very thought that someone would take my child scared me to death. If you can email me at email@example.com I can see if there’s a specialist in your area that can help you. Specialists in PPD understand these illnesses very well and know how to help.
Could SOMEONE OUT THERE PLEASE HELP ME I WAS DIAGNOSED WITH PPD IN 2007 AND IT LASTED FOR 5 YEARS WELL MY DOCTOR AT NORTHSIDE STATED THAT THAT WAS WHAT I WAS GOING THROUGH BEFORE THE BABY AND AFTER THE BABY WELL I WENT TO CALIFORNIA ME AND THE BABY WHERE THEN IT BECAME WORSE I WAS AWAY FROM HOME AND FROM MY OTHER THREE KIDS AND I BECAME HOME SICK AND SUFFERING FROM PPD. WELL DEFAC GOT INVOLVED AND MY BABY WAS SNATCHED AWAY FROM ME MAKING MY DEPRESSION STATE EVEN WORSE LONG STORY SHORT MY BABY WAS LOST TO THE THE FOSTER SYSTEM IN CALIFORNIA AND ADOPTED OUT I HAVE MY OTHER THREE KIDS WITH ME , I HEARD THAT PPD ONLY LAST FOR ABOUT FIVE YEARS. NOW THAT I AM NOT GOING THROUGH WITH POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION MY CHILD HAS BEEN ADOPTED OUT IS THER ANYTHING THAT I CAN DO TO GET HER BACK CAN ANYONE OUT THERE HELP ME PLEASEEEE. ARE THERE ANYRIGHT FOR HAVING A ILLNESS THAT IS NOT LONG TERM ??? NOW ON THE OTHER HAND MY OTHER THREE KIDS ARE DEPRESSED BECAUSE THEY DO NOT HAVE THEIR SISTER CAN ANYONE OUT THERE PLEASE HELP ME