JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — In an effort to protect new mothers, state Sen. Jill Schupp introduced a bill this week aimed at making sure more doctors screen and treat patients for postpartum depression.
SB 263 would require hospitals and other surgical centers equipped for helping women in labor provide resources about postpartum depression — regarding treatment and symptoms — to new mothers or other family members.
The legislation also gives health care providers who care for new mothers the ability to screen for postpartum depression upon her consent. Health care providers who treat newborns can also screen a mother; however, pediatricians would not be required to treat someone who tested positive for postpartum depression.
The bill does not specify how many times health care providers would be obligated to offer the screening.
Additionally, SB 263 would allow women who are receiving mental health treatment for postpartum depression or another related condition within 60 days of giving birth to be eligible to qualify for MO HealthNet benefits.
“We have the ability to provide women needed treatment in order to overcome the most common complication of pregnancy — postpartum depression,” Schupp, a Democrat, told the Senate Committee on Health and Pensions Wednesday. “We can reduce both maternal mortality and help families move forward as healthy, strong, and productive families.”
About one in seven women suffer from postpartum depression, according to data from the American Psychological Association (APA). Schupp also said postpartum depression is the second-leading cause of death for new mothers in Missouri, a state with a higher maternal mortality rate than 41 other states.
Postpartum depression might not show up right away and can last months, especially if left untreated, according to the APA.
“We know that poor mental health has a broad effect on the people of our state,” Schupp said. “It affects health care costs and productivity, and children with moms who have untreated postpartum depression are more likely to face depression themselves and have adverse childhood experiences — both of which can hinder their success in school, in work, and in life.”
Multiple senators on the committee, including Chairman Bob Onder, raised concerns about legal liability issues, especially when it comes to pediatricians administering screenings, given his or her specialty.
Onder also questioned if there’s any evidence that doctors aren’t already checking for postpartum depression, requiring a need for the bill.
“I don’t think [screening already] happens in most cases. What we do know is not all women return for that well-women visit,” Schupp, also a member of the committee, said. “What we’re seeing in Missouri and across the country is women are suffering and not always being treated. So what we’re trying to do is say we recognize this is a real problem with long term impact.”
About a dozen witnesses spoke in support of Schupp’s bill at the hearing, and no one spoke in opposition.
Kaitlyn Schallhorn is a reporter with The Missouri Times. She joined the newspaper in March 2019 after working as a reporter for Fox News in New York City. Throughout her career, Kaitlyn has covered political campaigns across the U.S. and humanitarian aid efforts in Africa. She is a native of Missouri who studied journalism at Winthrop University in South Carolina. Contact Kaitlyn at firstname.lastname@example.org.