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October 24, 2007

For Melanie

Melanie When Melanie Stokes become pregnant, she seemed to have everything in place. She was a successful pharmaceutical sales manager happily married to a physician. She had a supportive family and her share of brains and beauty. She was a radiant pregnant woman, eager to meet the child inside of her and to begin her new life as a mother.

On February 23, 2001, Sommer Skyy was born, beautiful and healthy. When Sommer was only a month old, Melanie's depression had grown so severe that she had stopped eating and drinking and could no longer swallow. She began to have paranoid thoughts about others--she thought that her neighbors across the street had all closed their blinds because they thought she was a bad mother. She became gaunt, hallow-eyed, a shell of her former self. Then, she began searching for a way to end her life.

Melanie's was hospitalized three times in seven weeks. She was given four combinations of anti-psychotic, anti-anxiety, and anti-depressant medications. She also underwent electroconvulsive therapy. Her family rallied around her with all their strength, but in the end, Melanie jumped to her death from the twelfth floor of a Chicago hotel. [link]

Today legislation that bears her name may finally be passed and signed into law to provide funding for research into postpartum depression and create an awareness campaign. The House passed their bill last week. On the Senate side, Senator Menendez & Senator Durbin have introduced the Mothers Act bill. Both would accomplish the same thing except the House bill has an interesting amendment attached to it. It wouldn't just look into postpartum depression

SEC. 104. LONGITUDINAL STUDY OF RELATIVE MENTAL HEALTH CONSEQUENCES FOR WOMEN OF RESOLVING A PREGNANCY.

(a) Sense of Congress- It is the sense of Congress that the Director of the Institute may conduct a nationally representative longitudinal study (during the period of fiscal years 2008 through 2018) of the relative mental health consequences for women of resolving a pregnancy (intended and unintended) in various ways, including carrying the pregnancy to term and parenting the child, carrying the pregnancy to term and placing the child for adoption, miscarriage, and having an abortion. This study may assess the incidence, timing, magnitude, and duration of the immediate and long-term mental health consequences (positive or negative) of these pregnancy outcomes.

When I first heard that this amendment was attached, I hit the roof & flew off the handle. I am just sick and tired of the anti's attaching anti-abortion language to anything that moves. Rep. Joseph Pitts (R-Pa.), who opposes abortion rights, said that although postpartum depression is a serious disease, it is "just as important to know the effects of adoption, miscarriage and abortion in order to properly help women" (Abrams, AP/Google.com, 10/15). I personally think they will end up being shot in the foot by this amendment.

Post-abortion syndrome has been shown in an APA study to be very rare. This is years after Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, despite his own feelings & a lot of political pressure, stood his ground and said there was no evidence that abortion was a risk to women's health. While I am still upset that money will be wasted on studying something that I think is already known, perhaps one more study will shut them up. Oh, wait, I forget, we're dealing with people who still cling to the idea that abortion gives you breast cancer despite study after study.

But I think the most damning report may come out of the adoption study. I personally support adoption and think it is one of the most courageous things a woman can do. BUT...if a woman desperately does not want to carry a pregnancy to term, I think that may cause more psychological damage. And there goes the anti's mantra of "Don't abort, adopt!" If the woman wants to carry to term and relinquish their child to another family, great. But if being pregnant makes a woman crazy, let's not force her. I firmly believe there are situations where abortion is better than adoption.

The silver lining? Perhaps we will have a better understanding as a society of how to treat & heal women who miscarry.

In the end, I hope that every single dollar goes towards solid science and an awesome PR campaign. I can't wait to see what comes of it.

This post was in support of BlogHers Act: Blog Day for the MothersAct

Veronica also blogs for Planned Parenthood Aurora and Chicago Parent and has cross-posted this at her personal blog, Viva La Feminista. She is still amazed she escaped postpartum depression and thanks her supportive family & friends for their support during that trying time.

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