Lawmakers in Oregon are considering a new proposal that would result in every new parent receiving in-home visits from health care professionals. As it stands now, the bill would allow the Oregon Health Authority to study a program that would offer three home visits to families with newborn babies, starting when the child is three weeks old.
One of the bill’s co-sponsors wants to see the health authority roll out a five-to-six year plan to offer home visits universally throughout the state, regardless of families’ geographic location or insurance status.
Postpartum depression is one of the issues that could be screened for at these visits. Postpartum depression is an issue that affects one in nine new mothers. Many mothers who do experience postpartum depression are scared to open up about it, in fear that it makes them a bad mother or that their child will be taken from them.
Many mothers also associate postpartum depression with the desire to hurt their baby. They believe if they aren’t experiencing those feelings, it isn’t postpartum depression. Those feelings are more closely associated with postpartum psychosis, which is a much rarer condition. Common symptoms of postpartum depression include difficulty bonding with your baby, overwhelming feelings of fatigue or loss of energy, and the fear that you aren’t a good mother, among other symptoms.
Having these visits would ensure mothers suffering from the condition receive the necessary treatment, as the illness can last for many months or longer when left untreated.
Currently, home visits are only offered to families enrolled in programs with eligibility requirements, such as Medicaid, or families that are considered at risk.
The proposed service would be entirely optional. Nurses would explain the program to new mothers at the hospital, and if the mother chooses to participate, then the nurse would schedule the home visit.
Some other concerns that could be addressed during a home visit are health concerns such as the baby’s weight and how breastfeeding is going, as well as social concerns like if the mother is attaching well and if they have necessary childcare.
Concerns have been raised that nurses would report any behavior they found unsavory to officials. However, nurses are only mandatory reporters of abuse and neglect. If a parent were co-sleeping with their child, which is not recommended, nurses would not be judgemental or report the behavior. Instead, they would take the opportunity to provide the necessary education to the parents to help the family and child be safer.
The bill’s co-sponsor, Elizabeth Steiner Hayward, foresees conversations with insurers to establish criteria for home visiting to take around a year. Using a phased approach will establish a Universal Home Visiting program that can be expanded to all families by 2026.