Supporting Military Families: Blumenthal & Kaine Introduce Legislation to Study Expansion of Mental Health Resources for Military Moms

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Tim Kaine (D-VA), members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, announced legislation today to help identify and remove barriers to maternal and postpartum mental health care in the military. The Military Moms’ Mental Health Assessment Act would require a Government Accountability Office (GAO) study of postpartum mental health conditions among servicemembers and military spouses, which will help ensure that appropriate support and resources are available to them. 

“The challenges of being a new mom are magnified when you’re in the military. Our legislation will help make sure that military moms, whether they’re servicemembers or spouses, have full access to mental health resources and support,” Blumenthal said. “We owe an immense debt of gratitude to the military families who make sacrifices every day in service to our country – supporting their well-being is our responsibility, and absolutely fundamental to our national security.”

“The challenges of being a new mom are compounded when you are in the military. If we can remove barriers to maternal and postpartum mental health care in the military, we have to do it. I’m pleased to introduce legislation to support military moms — both servicemembers and spouses — and help reduce the burden on military families,” said Kaine.

“Every mom feels the pressure to be strong, but no mom feels that pressure more than a military mom. What I tell military moms all the time when they speak to me about depression, anxiety, isolation, rage they’re suffering from is that sometimes being strong means asking for help. But the sad reality is that far too often, military moms don’t feel they can ask for help, especially when it comes to their mental health. Whether it’s pregnancy or postpartum depression, anxiety disorder, or long-term mental health struggles exacerbated by the isolation of military life (and that pressure to be strong!), abusive relationships (also underreported due to stigma and fear of repercussions), children too closely spaced, a partner who’s distant physically due to deployments or emotionally due to his own mental health issues, the little research that has been done in the field show that military moms suffer disproportionately from maternal mental health challenges – and, also disproportionately, don’t get the care they need and deserve,” said Heidi Murkoff, author of “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” and founder of the What to Expect Project. “We must make it easier for all moms to access mental health services, so they can nurture themselves and their babies – but especially for military moms. Serving your country – whether you’re active duty or a spouse of a service member -- shouldn’t mean sacrificing your mental health.”

“The National Partnership for Women & Families is pleased to support the Military Moms Mental Health Assessment Act to evaluate the mental health needs of service members and dependents during pregnancy and after birth,” said Debra L. Ness, President of the National Partnership for Women & Families. “Maternal mental health conditions are widespread and military families face distinctive challenges.”

“The Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs thanks Senators Blumenthal and Kaine for introducing legislation recognizing the important need to better support servicemembers and their partners during pregnancy and the postpartum period.  Key to achieving better maternal health outcomes is ensuring that the care and support services provided are woman-centered.  Offering greater access to doula support and better identifying the mental health needs of this specific population moves us in the right direction and will ultimately save women’s lives,” said Jonathan Webb, CEO of Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs.

“The Military Family Advisory Network (MFAN) is honored to serve as a trusted voice of military families who share their experiences with us through scientific research. According to MFAN data, the full family’s experience is a top indicator for retention. And, childcare and access to mental health support—two key areas addressed in this legislation—are perennial issues that impact the overarching quality of life for military families,” said Shannon Razsadin, Executive Director of the Military Family Advisory Network. “Military families are looking for a level playing field and experiences that are as close to on par with civilian counterparts as possible. By working to reduce barriers, streamline experiences, and empower families we will make life easier for military families, who already sacrifice so much."

The Military Moms’ Mental Health Assessment Act would require a study on the prenatal and postpartum mental health conditions among members of the Armed Forces and their dependents. The requirements and demands of military service, including deployment and training, can contribute to isolation during pregnancy and birth and can prevent birthing partners from being present during childbirth. However, there is little research related to prenatal and postpartum mental health conditions among military spouses and active duty service members. Collecting this data will help the Department of Defense better understand the current status of prenatal and postpartum mental health care for TRICARE beneficiaries as well as the needs of servicemembers and their dependents.

The Military Moms’ Mental Health Assessment Act is one of a comprehensive set of policies Blumenthal has proposed to support the partners, children, and close relatives of servicemembers. Military families make immense sacrifices and confront unique challenges, including frequent moves, the stress of deployments, and the difficulty of caring for a loved one who has been injured. Family members provide servicemembers with an invaluable support system, and their well-being is essential to overall military readiness and our national security.