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Arizona legislative bills look to offer more postpartum health options

Posted at 4:11 PM, Feb 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-10 20:16:40-05

One in seven moms will suffer postpartum depression. It is the number one complication of childbirth, but finding and affording treatment can be incredible difficult.

ABC15's Danielle Lerner recently opened up about her battle with postpartum depression and anxiety, and takes a closer look at what's being done to help Arizona families get the care they need.

Walk around Cindy Herrick's home and it is clear 7-year-old Lochlan is her pride and joy. However, it didn't always feel that way.

"I didn't feel any joy. I was terrified of my son," said Herrick.

RELATED: Questions to ask, who to contact for help regarding postpartum depression

Herrick has lived and taken medication for depression and anxiety, but she said the symptoms intensified during her second trimester and got terrifyingly worse after delivery.

"We didn't really know who to go to for help and where to reach out for help," she said. "Even when I did, people didn't know how to help me."

Her recovery took three years.

"I remember telling myself that if I survived it and got out of it one day, that I would do something to try and change it," said Herrick.

Herrick now works with the national organization "2020 Mom," advocating for better maternal mental health care across the country, including working with local lawmakers like Republican State Senator Heather Carter.

"We need to make sure we're collecting data around the incidence of perinatal mood disorders so we can demonstrate there's a need for services," said Carter.

Carter has introduced several bills this legislative session. SB1290 creates a maternal mental health advisory committee, charged with finding and recommending better ways to screen and treat perinatal mood disorders by the end of 2021.

"We will also be looking at expanding SOBRA benefits for new moms so they can receive care beyond those initial first months postpartum," said Carter.

SB1392 would allocate $13 million to AHCCCS to extend those benefits for a year postpartum and SB1472 creates a provider incentive program to get more women on AHCCCS attending their 6-week postpartum doctor's visits. Right now the rate is at 20 percent.

"We have this perception of motherhood that we should be perfect," said Herrick, who agrees these legislative bills are crucial steps forward.

Herrick also said that promoting a more realistic version of motherhood can change lives too. It is something she's now spearheading through 2020 Mom's Blue Dot Project, a symbol created by a woman who suffered postpartum anxiety and wanted to let other moms know they are not alone. The organization also uses #MakingOverMotherhood on social media.

"I have yet to meet a mom who has had it all together, myself very much included," said Herrick. "Even if we don't have it all together, it's okay."