The Mothers Act

Senator Menendez, sponsor of The Mother's Act
The Melanie Blocker Stokes MOTHERS Act legislation sponsored by U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) to combat postpartum depression became law as part of landmark health insurance reform that passed Congress on March 21, 2010. The legislation establishes a comprehensive federal commitment to combating postpartum depression through new research, education initiatives and voluntarily support service programs.

“Millions of mothers nationwide who are suffering or will suffer from postpartum depression are among the winners as a result of the new health insurance reform law,” said Senator Menendez. “These women understand that postpartum depression is serious and disabling, and that the support structure to help prepare for and overcome it is has been woefully insufficient.”

“Finally, women all over the country are going to have access to the kinds of support services and information that women in New Jersey have had for a number of years,” said Mary Jo Codey, former First Lady of New Jersey and leading advocate in the fight against postpartum depression.

The Mother's Act a Federal Program to Combat Postpartum DepressionThe new law will increase federal efforts to combat postpartum depression by:

  • Encouraging Health and Human Services (HHS) to coordinate and continue research to expand the understanding of the causes of, and find treatments for, postpartum conditions.
  • Encouraging a National Public Awareness Campaign, to be administered by HHS, to increase awareness and knowledge of postpartum depression and psychosis.
  • Requiring the Secretary of HHS to conduct a study on the benefits of screening for postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis.
  • Creating a grant program to public or nonprofit private entities to deliver or enhance outpatient, inpatient and home-based health and support services, including case management and comprehensive treatment services for individuals with or at risk for postpartum conditions.
  • Activities may also include providing education about postpartum conditions to new mothers and their families, including symptoms, methods of coping with the illness, and treatment resources, in order to promote earlier diagnosis and treatment.

It is estimated that postpartum depression (PPD) affects from 10 to 20 percent of new mothers. In the United States, there may be as many as 800,000 new cases of postpartum conditions each year. The cause of PPD isn’t known but changes in hormone levels, a difficult pregnancy or birth, and a family history of depression are considered possible factors.

To read more about The Melanie Blocker Stokes MOTHERS Act, click here.

MOTHERS Act and the ACA – What has happened since 2010?

When the  U.S. Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act passed in 2010, the MOTHERS Act was included in the text of the bill. The adoption of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), Section 2952: Support, Education, and Research for Postpartum Depression mandated ongoing research to better understand the frequency and course of postpartum depression, address differences in treatment needs among racial and ethnic groups, and develop culturally competent evidence-based treatment approaches (U.S. Department of Labor, 2012).  However, Congress has not appropriated funds to carry out the activities authorized in these provisions.

The MOTHERS Act was historically significant, introducing language of postpartum depression into the federal legislative record, and it garnered support and interest across the US and across political parties. However, none of the provisions of the Act were activated with funding.  Subsequent legislative action has been state-based, until the introduction of the Bringing Depression Out of the Shadows Act in 2015. (Summary provided by Postpartum Support International).