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Ten Percent of MN Mothers Will Suffer from Serious PostPartum Depression

PHOTO: Doctor and baby. CREDIT: CDF-MN
PHOTO: Doctor and baby. CREDIT: CDF-MN
September 7, 2012

ST. PAUL, Minn. - There's a new effort underway in Minnesota to ensure that mothers who experience depression after childbirth are getting treatment. Marcie Jefferys, policy development director at the Children's Defense Fund of Minnesota, says some mothers who suffer with serious postpartum depression can't get help, so her organization is working on a new state law to change that.

"We have a lot of pieces in the legislation, but one is to expand coverage in our state health care programs beyond six weeks postpartum for new moms so that more women can stay on medical assistance and get access to mental health care."

Jefferys says they're also trying to raise awareness for pediatricians to screen mothers for depression during check-ups for the baby. Currently that only happens in 1 percent of child-well-being visits in Minnesota. It is estimated that about 10 percent of all new mothers will suffer from postpartum depression.

Psychologist Terrie Rose, the CEO of Baby's Space, says it is critical that new mothers with symptoms be screened, so they can determine what is just the typical "baby blues" versus something that requires treatment. Rose also notes that seeking help is also the responsibility of friends and family, because when a person is depressed it can be tough to find the initiative.

"And that's why the husband, the grandma, the auntie... they're really important partners to helping that woman find the kind of treatment that's going to help her feel better and help her be more engaged in her baby's life."

Symptoms of postpartum depression include excessive worry, a lack of energy, feeling worthless and the inability to take care of oneself. Rose says some mothers will suffer for months before things get better, and that's time lost when a mother needs to be actively involved in care, and she and the newborn should be bonding.

"So the baby loses that opportunity very early on to begin to interact - smile when somebody smiles at them - to be engaged. And the baby in some ways experiences the same symptoms, the depression, the lack of interest... the lack of contact with other people."

Those most at-risk include low-income women and those who have suffered previous bouts of depression or had other mental-health issues, but it can strike regardless of income or personal history.

More information is at

John Michaelson, Public News Service - MN