We Need Universal Mental Health Screening for Women Having Babies


I experienced both a postpartum mood disorder (postpartum psychosis) and a perinatal psychiatric issue (a manic episode which led to psychosis) very early on in my second pregnancy. I had been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder two years before my husband and I decided to start a family, and yet I found limited support and information in my quest to have as healthy a pregnancy and postpartum experience as I could. When I think back to that time in my life, I strongly believe that if I had received better screening – particularly after my first pregnancy – much of the trauma and heartache of what I went through could have been avoided.

Before I experienced mental illness on a personal level, my ignorance of the various forms of psychiatric conditions caused me to judge people whose stories were covered in the media. I remember watching news coverage of the Andrea Yates trial thinking HOW COULD THAT HAPPEN? And then it happened to me seven years later. Thank God my outcome was drastically different.

Just this week a pregnant mother and her three children were rescued in Daytona Beach, after she drove the family minivan into the ocean. A family member had called police hours earlier to express concern over her strange behavior, including talk of demons.  On the 911 tapes, you can hear the sister request a well-being check because “she’s like having psychosis or something.”

This woman literally saved her sister’s life, the lives of those three children and the life of her sister’s unborn baby with that call for help.

They were lucky to have avoided an outcome similar to that of the Andrea Yates case. Simply because someone close to the person who was suffering took action.

Now it’s our turn to take action. There is an urgent need for changes in the way we screen women during pregnancy and postpartum in order to stop incidents like these from ever occurring in the first place.

Maybe this woman’s sister recognized what her family member was going through because of the increase of more open dialogue about women’s mental health issues. I can feel the wave of mental health awareness gaining momentum and hope that very soon there will be less ignorance out there and more acceptance. Because together we can make a difference.

Which is why I support this important White House petition to create mandatory universal mental health screening for pregnant and postpartum women. Did you know that suicide is the leading cause of death for women during the first year after childbirth? Or that 1 in 7 women will experience a mood or anxiety disorder during pregnancy or postpartum, yet nearly 50% remain untreated?

We need change. We need to screen every mother, every time to prevent and treat perinatal mental illness.

Recovery is possible – I am a perfect example of this. But wouldn’t it be incredible if in the future we could catch cases like mine before they escalate? Before they lead to suffering and even death? No woman should have to suffer in silence because she’s afraid to admit what she’s thinking or feeling. We need to provide her with the chance to find recovery early. We need to recognize the signs and symptoms and take action.

Please take a moment to sign the petition: Every Mother, Every Time. Creating a WhiteHouse.gov account takes only a minute and there are simple tools to share the petition on Facebook and Twitter once you have submitted your signature.

This movement will save lives. We need 100,000 signatures to get the attention of the Obama Administration. Let’s come together to make our voices heard on this critically important issue.

Every Mother, Every Time.

Tweet about the petition with the hashtag #EMET:

Thank you for helping to spread the word.


  1. This is a truly great post due to The fact that
    It explains and personalizes the significance of the White House Petition for Pregnant and Postpartum women created by Dr. Walker Karraa, Ph.D.
    Please share this important message that I believe in with all my heart! Thank you, Dyane here’s a long p.s. when I type this comment in, I can’t capitalize anything! Also, I blogged about this issue today because it’s so powerful. If I had a mental health screening during my pregnancy in which my family history was examined, it is entirely possible that my postpartum bipolar disorder could have been avoided or at least taken care of immediately. My father had bipolar one. If this petition passes I will be overjoyed. Let’s make it happen!
    Dyane Harwood recently posted…US Petition: Every mother, every time.My Profile

  2. Thank you for sharing, Dyane! I am so thankful that Dr. Walker Karraa created the petition and I want to do everything I can to help her reach the 100k signatures by April 4th. Thank you for sharing your story, too. (and now – posting this comment as if I were a reader – I am seeing what you mean about the capitalizing thing, weird! I’ll have to look into it. Thanks for letting me know!) :)
    Jennifer Marshall recently posted…We Need Universal Mental Health Screening for Women Having BabiesMy Profile

  3. Jenn, thank you so much for writing this post! This is such an important topic, and we need to raise our collective voices to get this signed.
    Jen recently posted…Feeling like a fraudMy Profile

  4. As someone who has suffered from mental/nervous/postpartum issues, I agree wholeheartedly. my political principles, however, are that you cannot legislate morality/what is right. My happy medium: we need to erase the stigma and convince everyone – new mamas included – to seek help when needed :)

  5. thank you! I am so glad to know there are others out there rallying for this and I am so glad to know about it. I just signed the petition!

  6. The petition is gone, do you know of one that is similar that is still up or if there will be another?

    • I believe you only have 60 or 90 days to reach a certain number of signatures or else the petition dies. I do hope another one is started. I know Walker tried very hard to make that one work.

  7. Well put, sir, well put. I’ll certnialy make note of that.

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  11. I appreciate you taking to time to contribute That’s very helpful.

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  14. Wow, I didn’t know 1 in 7 women experienced a mental health disorder during pregnancy. I guess maintaining and caring for your mental health is really important for mothers. It could be really important to include therapy as one of a mother-to-be’s prenatal care.


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