July is Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. To mark the occasion, we are taking a look at postpartum depression.
Having children can be an exciting time of your life. While becoming a parent is a blessing, the intense effects on mothers-to-be and new mothers can be stressful – and some moms will develop postpartum depression (also called “postnatal depression”). In fact, according to the National Institute of Health, nearly one out of every five new moms will battle postpartum depression during her pregnancy and/or the first year following childbirth. In spite of its prevalence, no definitive cause of postpartum depression is known, although hormonal shifts and physical changes may be strong contributors. If you or someone you care about is pregnant or recently gave birth, make sure to learn the facts and know the signs.
Many statistics indicate that women in a lower socioeconomic status experience higher rates of postnatal depression. However, according to data from the Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System, self-reported postpartum depression also is higher among women of racial/ethnic minority groups. Scholars at Florida International University (FIU) found that, due to the higher incidence of preterm births, minority mothers and newborns are at higher risks for the effects of postnatal depression, and Black women experience preterm birth at higher rates (17.1%), than White (10.8%), or Hispanic mothers (11.8%). Not only did the mothers in the FIU study report higher levels of symptoms related to depression, but their newborns also displayed increased levels of distress, fear, and sadness. Nicole E. Barroso, lead author of the FIU study explained that, “Caring for a preterm infant is particularly challenging as premature babies have more medical and temperamental problems.”
Likely due to this increased risk of preterm births and associated postpartum depression, researchers urge early screening and treatment. Although the intensity and presence of signs may vary, some telltale signs of postnatal depression include:
- Constant anxiety
- Difficulty sleeping
- Loss of appetite
- Hot flashes
If you experience these symptoms or think you may be suffering from pregnancy-related depression, discuss it with your doctor. Fathers, partners, and loved ones who wish to help pregnant or new mothers cope with postpartum depression, remember the “H.E.R.S.” approach and try the following:
- Help her find outlets for support and treatment and help with housework, and childcare.
- Encourage her to take time for herself and talk about her feelings
- Reassure her that she is not alone, she will get better, and that it’s not her fault
- Soothe, sympathize and supply her with affection and comfort -– a hug, note, or token of appreciation goes a long way
For more information on what you can do click here: Postpartum Support International.
–Chelsea Burwell is a working towards her Masters in Communication, Culture, and Technology at Georgetown University. Her interests include black culture, feminism, identity politics, media representation, natural black hair care, music, art and fashion.
COPYRIGHT©2015 by Living Well Black, Inc.
“Postpartum depression screenings critical for minority mothers,” FIU News (viewed 7/13/15)
“Postpartum Depression,” U.S. Library of Medicine, MedlinePlus (viewed 7/13/15)