Bill to Help Improve Access to Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorder Screening Passes Committee

Aiming to address the number one complication of childbirth by helping mothers experiencing depression or anxiety as a result of their pregnancy, Assembly Democrats Shanique Speight, Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Joann Downey sponsor a bill that would help expand access to perinatal mood and anxiety disorder (PMAD) screening in New Jersey.

PMADs – such as postpartum depression – can appear during pregnancy and up to one year after childbirth, often as a result of the drastic physiological and environmental changes new mothers undergo. Under the bill (A-1077), the Department of Health (DOH) would develop and implement a plan to improve access to screening as well as referrals, treatments and support services for these disorders.

The DOH’s plan would include strategies to help reduce stigma and raise awareness about the prevalence of PMADs, increase access to peer support services, establish a referral network of mental health providers who can assist women with a PMAD, and provide funds for screening, treatment and other services related to these disorders.

Upon the legislation being advanced by the Assembly Women and Children Committee on Monday, Assemblywomen Speight (D-Essex), Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen) and Downey (D-Monmouth) issued the following joint statement:

“Many people don’t realize just how common it is for women to develop a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder, or that women are more likely to develop depression and anxiety within the first year of childbirth than at any other time in their lives. Between hormonal levels rapidly changing and the additional stressors that come with giving birth and raising a child, it makes sense that up to 25 percent of new mothers experience one of these disorders.

“Despite the prevalence of PMADs, they often go undiagnosed and untreated – leading to more challenges for women who are already struggling to make it through their day. Recognition is the first step in addressing any problem, which is why raising awareness about these disorders and improving access to screening will make such a big difference.

“Mothers throughout our state deserve compassion and understanding about the unique issues they face. This legislation will bring those issues to light and help provide the information and support mothers need to cope with them.”