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.