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Experts remind law enforcement officials and the public of the number of women who suffer from maternal mental health disorders and need for all mothers to be screened for postpartum depression and psychosis.  Mothers need specific care when dealing with long-term mental health conditions.

Boston, MA, October 5, 2013 – Two weeks after the MA Postpartum Depression (PPD) Commission met to discuss screening recommendations and new initiatives to address perinatal mental health across MA, Miriam Carey, a 34-year old mother drove her car with her one-year old baby in it into police barricades near the White House.

“I am deeply distressed about and sorry for the tragic death of Miriam Carey. It is a wake-up call for all of us to do everything we can to identify and treat postpartum depression,” said Representative Ellen Story (D-Amherst), Co-Chairperson of the MA Postpartum Depression (PPD) Commission, and author of the 2010 MA Postpartum Depression Legislation.

According to Postpartum Support International, up to 20 percent of pregnant women and new mothers will experience a maternal mental health disorder, yet the majority of women are not screened, diagnosed or treated. In MA, only a fraction of mothers are routinely screened.

One in a thousand new mothers will suffer from psychosis, in which there is a severe break in reality. Up to five percent of mothers suffering from postpartum psychosis will commit suicide. Prior history of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder can lead to postpartum psychosis. 

"Postpartum psychosis may cause women to lose touch with reality. A mother may develop delusional beliefs or experience hallucinations which can distort her thinking process.   This may impair a mother’s judgment and cause her to behave in unsafe ways because she is trying to protect her and/or her baby from perceived harm," said Dr. Nancy Byatt, is a psychiatrist who specializes in perinatal mental health at UMass Memorial Health Care/UMass Medical School.

Some reports indicate that Ms. Carey had suffered from mental illness prior to having a baby, and the newest reports indicate medication to treat psychiatric disorders were found at her home.   What many people don’t understand is that women suffering from maternal mental health disorders can also have no prior mental health history.

“We want all medical providers to understand that pregnancy and postpartum mental health disorders are common, real and treatable.  We want every woman to have access to care and treatment so that we can prevent escalation and crisis,” said Barry Sarvet, MD, Medical Director of MCPAP and Vice Chair of Department of Psychiatry at Baystate Health. MCPAP is developing services, which include training, consultation and referral to build the capacity of medical providers to address mother's mental health.  MCPAP, in partnership with the MA PPD Commission, is working to ensure that all providers are prepared to screen, refer and treat women suffering from perinatal mood disorders.

Rep. Ellen Story added, “The MA PPD Commission with MCPAP and DPH are working hard to bring Massachusetts several new initiatives that will make a significant difference to mothers and families across the state.”

"We must consistently screen, diagnose and treat women who are suffering from perinatal emotional complications.  When we don’t do this in a consistent manner we are failing all mothers and families in the Commonwealth,” added Liz Friedman, Program Director of MotherWoman, a MA non-profit committed to helping communities develop system-wide initiatives to address perinatal mental health, and a member of the MA PPD Commission.  

"Over 14,000 women in the Commonwealth are negatively impacted each year and the MA PPD Commission and our partners across the state are committed to creating a statewide safety net so that every mother has the resources she needs when she needs them the most,” Ms. Friedman said.   


About the MA Postpartum (PPD) Commission

The Massachusetts Special Legislative Commission on Postpartum Depression was established by law in 2010, and tasked with addressing PPD statewide, including screening, treatment, and assisting with new Department of Public Health regulations and initiatives. The body is made up of prominent leaders on the issue including legislators, state agency and nonprofit leaders, a range of medical professionals, and women who have survived PPD. The Commission is currently working on several exciting new initiatives, including the expansion of the Massachusetts Child Psychiatry Access Project (MCPAP) to provide consultant and referral services for new mothers via their pediatricians' offices, and a pilot program using Community Health Workers to assist struggling moms at community health centers across the state. 



NOTE:  When reporting on this issue please be sure to offer local resources for mothers and families currently suffering and needing help. 

For resources and support contact:

Postpartum Support International





Postpartum Support International of MA


PSI Warmline





www.motherwoman.org in Western MA.


Department of Public Health




The Massachusetts Child Psychiatry Access Project (MCPAP) is a system of regional children's mental health consultation teams designed to help primary care providers (PCPs) meet the needs of children with psychiatric problems.  MCPAP, in conjunction with the MA PPD Commission, is developing similar services to support medical providers to meet the needs of mothers with psychiatric problems.

About Postpartum Support International

Postpartum Support International is dedicated to helping women suffering from perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, including postpartum depression. Postpartum Support International works to educate and support family, friends and healthcare providers so that pregnant and postpartum women and their families get the support they need to recover. 

For resources and support contact www.postpartum.net or 800-944-4773. (800-944-4PPD)


About MotherWoman

MotherWoman supports and empowers mothers to create personal and social change by building community safety nets, impacting family policy and promoting the leadership and resilience of mothers through support group development, community-based perinatal mental health response and professional trainings for providers.




Wendy Davis, PhD


Executive Director

Postpartum Support International


503-246-0941 (office)

503-277-3925 (cell)





Nancy Byatt, DO, MBA

UMass Memorial health care\UMass medical school

508-334-7839 (office)



John Straus, MD


617-790-4120 (office)

617-877-7856 (cell)



Representative Ellen Story

617-722-2012 (office)

413-256-6300 (cell)



Liz Friedman


413-387-0703 (office)

413-658-8231 (cell)