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Capitol Watch: New Help for Postpartum Depression

More than 600,000 American women a year -- about 15 percent of new moms -- experience postpartum depression (PPD). Now, for the first time, Congress has introduced legislation that would help them.

The Melanie Stokes Postpartum Depression Research and Care Act would fund studies on the causes, diagnosis, and treatment of the disorder and also give money to local governments, hospitals, and health centers to screen and care for affected moms. A few states have recently started programs to assist women with PPD, but the Stokes bill would be the first nationwide effort.

More than 600,000 American women a year -- about 15 percent of new moms -- experience postpartum depression (PPD). Now, for the first time, Congress has introduced legislation that would help them.

The Melanie Stokes Postpartum Depression Research and Care Act would fund studies on the causes, diagnosis, and treatment of the disorder and also give money to local governments, hospitals, and health centers to screen and care for affected moms. A few states have recently started programs to assist women with PPD, but the Stokes bill would be the first nationwide effort.

Bobby L. Rush (D-IL) introduced the bill in June 2001, two weeks after Melanie Stokes of Chicago committed suicide while suffering from an extreme form of the illness, postpartum psychosis (the same month Andrea Yates, also suffering from it, drowned her five children in Houston). Stokes left behind a husband and a 3-month-old daughter.

The House version of the bill (HR 2380) has broad bipartisan support; at press time, it was awaiting a subcommittee vote, and a Senate subcommittee expected to hold hearings on its version of the bill (S 1535) in the fall. The two versions could come up for final votes sometime this winter.

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