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A legislative measure that formally recognizes postpartum depression and anxiety as "a serious statewide public health issue" passed the Senate Health and Human Services Committee on Tuesday.

SALT LAKE CITY — Kelsie Oliver said she had a wonderful experience delivering her baby girl last year, and "everything was going great."

That is, until about three days after delivery.

"I (started) feeling strange, but I didn't tell anyone," Oliver told state lawmakers Tuesday.

Soon, Oliver started experiencing "intrusive thoughts," which she called "the worst things you could ever picture doing to your baby."

When her daughter was just 2 months old, Oliver was taken to an emergency room, then checked into a psychiatric unit for five days in response to her severe symptoms for postpartum depression.

Oliver was later put into intensive outpatient treatment, usually about three hours per day, she said, and "I'm grateful to say that I'm surviving."

"(But) I know for a fact that if I would've been screened, if I would've been asked what I was feeling by my pediatrician at my well-child checkups, if I would've been screened then and asked the questions, I would've gotten help so much sooner than having to take these drastic measures," she said.

A legislative measure recognizing postpartum depression and anxiety as "a serious statewide public health issue" passed the Senate Health and Human Services Committee on Tuesday after hearing Oliver's impassioned testimony and the support of several experts.

SCR11, sponsored by Sen. Brian Zehnder, R-Holladay, urges the state Department of Health and Department of Human Services and the medical community in general to "expand provider training, education and support, and a standard of care across practices in perinatal settings" related to postpartum depression and anxiety.

The measure specifically calls for mothers to be screened for the condition throughout their pregnancy and after delivery, "including during their child's well-child visit."

It also asks state and local health authorities to "become informed regarding the short-term and long-term impacts of maternal depression and anxiety so that evidence-based preventative care, early identification, and treatment services are available and accessible statewide for all women."

Zehnder told the committee that postpartum depression and anxiety is "a serious public health issue and is the No. 1 complication in child birth," and it "goes beyond what we often refer to as the baby blues." He said it's estimated to affect 1 in 8 women in Utah.

Amy-Rose White, a psychotherapist and the founder and executive director of the Utah Maternal Mental Health Collaborative, spoke in support of the resolution, telling the committee that too many women don't even know what they're experiencing when suffering with postpartum depression and anxiety.

"I'm typically the third or fourth provider a woman has seen because even in the field of mental health and medicine, we are not educated about what these mental illnesses look like," White said. "That's the real tragedy here to me."

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Oliver said her lack of a full understanding about the very nature of postpartum depression and anxiety led to her taking longer than she should have to identify what she was experiencing.

"I was thinking sadness and not being able to get ready for the day. That was not the case at all," she said. "I was anxious. I had (obsessive compulsive disorder)."

The Utah chapter of the American Academy of Pediatricians, Young Women's Christian Association, and Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health also testified in favor of the resolution Tuesday. The committee favorably recommended it to the full Senate by a unanimous vote.