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October 21, 2014
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108th Congress

Public Laws | arrow indicating current page Pending Legislation

Melanie Blocker-Stokes Postpartum Depression Research and Care Act

H.R. 846 and S. 450

Background

On February 23, 2001, Melanie Blocker-Stokes, a Chicago, IL, native and successful pharmaceutical sales manager, wife, and mother, gave birth to a daughter. After the birth of her daughter, Mrs. Blocker-Stokes developed a devastating mood disorder known as postpartum psychosis. She was admitted to Chicago-area hospitals three times, each time for 7 to 10 days. Despite medical assistance and the support of her family and friends, Mrs. Blocker-Stokes lost her battle with postpartum psychosis and jumped from a 12-story window ledge to her death on June 11, 2001.

Some studies indicate that at least 50 percent of all new mothers undergo the “baby blues,” a feeling of letdown after the emotional experience of childbirth. Treatment studies of women suffering from postpartum depression are few. Serious postpartum depression affects more than 10 percent of women who manifest symptoms, which may include excessive worry or exhaustion, sadness, feelings of guilt, apathy, phobias, sleep problems, physical complaints, and a marked fear of criticism of their mothering skills. These symptoms may last from 3 to 14 months. The most severe form of postpartum depression, postpartum psychosis, is characterized by visual and auditory hallucinations, paranoia, severe insomnia, extreme anxiety, depression, and deluded thinking, in addition to the other symptoms of postpartum depression. Postpartum psychosis often requires hospitalization. While this severe form of postpartum depression occurs fairly infrequently, affecting an estimated 1 in 1,000 new mothers, it may have the most grievous consequences, including attempts at self harm, suicide, or harm to others. These consequences are an indication that postpartum depression is a significant problem with major societal costs.

Provisions of the Legislation/Impact on NIH

H.R. 846, the Melanie Blocker-Stokes Postpartum Depression Research and Care Act, was identical to legislation that was introduced in the 107th Congress. H.R. 846 would have required the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), acting through the Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), to expand and intensify (NIMH research and related activities with respect to postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis. The bill would have also required (NIMH to coordinate its activities with other NIH components that have responsibilities related to postpartum conditions. In addition, (NIMH would have been required to conduct and support basic and clinical research, epidemiological studies, diagnostic techniques, and information and education programs to expand the understanding of the causes of and efforts to find a cure for postpartum conditions.

S. 450, the Melanie Stokes Postpartum Depression Research and Care Act, was identical to the Senate bill that was introduced in the 107th Congress. S. 450 would have amended the Public Health Service Act to provide for research on and services for individuals with postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis. Specifically, S. 450 would have required the Secretary of HHS, acting through the Director of NIH, Administrator of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and heads of other Federal agencies that administer Federal health programs, to organize a series of national meetings for the purposes of developing a research plan for postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis. After the development of the research plan, the Secretary of HHS, acting through the Director of NIH, would have been required to expand and intensify research and related activities of the Institutes regarding postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis in a manner appropriate to carry out the established research plan.

Status and Outlook

H.R. 846 was introduced by Representative Bobby L. Rush (D-IL) on February 13, 2003, and was referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. No further action occurred on this legislation during the 108th Congress.

S. 450 was introduced by Senator Richard J. Durbin (D-IL) on February 26, 2003, and was referred to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. No further action occurred on this legislation during the 108th Congress.

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