Lawmakers push legislation to help new mothers with postpartum depression

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About 21,000 Pennsylvania babies and their moms in are affected by postpartum depression every year.

Many of those moms, like Jatnely Gonzalez, say they don’t know where to turn. 

“Childbirth is one of the most fulfilling and joyful days in a woman’s life. However, not every mother gets to experience that,” Gonzalez said.

When she was handed her daughter for the first time after giving birth in 2010, Gonzalez knew she should have been overjoyed.

“All I felt was a deep sadness that consumed me. I’m a horrible mother, I thought,” she said.

She thought about running away or even ending her life, having no idea she was suffering from postpartum depression.

“I went untreated because I thought I could overcome this alone,” she said.

Lawmakers have introduced bills in the House and Senate. The proposals would automatically qualify infants whose mothers are at risk for depression for services through the state’s early intervention program.

“They think it’s in their heads, that they can tough it out. Mental illness doesn’t work that way,” said Rep. Mike Schlossberg.

Dr. Eina Fishman of Gateway Health says the legislation would help parents track their children to make sure they are meeting developmental milestones. 

“Children of moms who have untreated postpartum depression are much more likely to have emotional and behavioral problems. Early intervention means early resolution,” Fishman said.

Supporters like state Rep. Camera Bartolotta say the early intervention system regularly checks in with new moms and educates them not only on how to help their children but also on treatment for their depression. 

“This is a way to open up the discussion to show these moms, look, there’s help for you,” said Bartolotta. 

Both the House and Senate bills are in appropriations committees. One of the things being worked out is just how much the program would cost. 

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