July is Minority Mental Health Month – What are the Signs of Postpartum Depression?

July is Minority Mental Health Awareness Month.[1]  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.[2]  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%).[3]  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
  • Irritability
  • Dizziness
  • Hot flashes
  • Nausea

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[4]

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.

Sources:

[1] “Minority Mental Health Month – July” (viewed 7/13/15)

[2] Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, “Prevalence of Self-Reported Postpartum Depressive Symptoms — 17 States, 2004–2005” (viewed 7/13/15)

[3] Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, “Preterm Births – United States, 2006 and 2010  (viewed 7/13/15)

[4] “Tips for Postpartum Dads and Partners” (viewed 7/13/15)

Additional Sources:

“Postpartum depression screenings critical for minority mothers,” FIU News (viewed 7/13/15)

“Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Postpartum Depression Care Among Low-Income Women,” Kozhimnnil, Katy Backes, et. al, Psychiatr Serv. 2011 Jun; 62(6): 619–625. (viewed 7/13/15)

“Postpartum Depression,” U.S. Library of Medicine, MedlinePlus (viewed 7/13/15)

Stress, Health and the Workplace – What is “Gendered Racism?”

Afro-American businesswoman holding a notepad

Stress & Health: What is “Gendered Racism?”  What is the impact of being a woman in the workplace?  What is the impact of being African American on our experience in the workplace?  What if you are an African American woman?

Businessman And Businesswoman In Street With Takeaway CoffeeIt is not surprising that even after African American women have worked hard, and reached a successful point in our careers, we will continue to deal with bias related stress in the workplace. Some of the stress affecting African American women in high-status positions who find themselves with few peers of the same race and gender is from “Gendered Racism.”  Gendered racism is a unique form of oppression that occurs at the intersection of race and gender and comes from people’s perceptions, stereotypes, and images of a particular group.

According to a study that examined the effects of gendered racism on psychological distress among African American women, these experiences are associated with increased psychological distress (Thomas, Witherspoon, and Speight, 2004).  In a study assessing perceptions of workplace stress, African American women said that they tried to avoid the label of “hostile.”  As a result, they said that they have changed the way they spoke and the way they acted to avoid behaviors that would conform to stereotypical beliefs held by their supervisors and colleagues. (Hall, Everett, and Hamilton-Mason, 2012).

These efforts impact women’s health by causing internal conflict or stress, which has been associated with sleep loss, high blood pressure, and emotional eating. In addition, when these women experienced a racist or sexist act, they may be hesitant to address the problem due to fears of being ostracized or labeled “too sensitive.” How can we protect our own health if we have the same or similar experiences?  We can do this by being aware of our emotions, by being mindful of our physical reactions, by using techniques in “conscious breathing,” and utilizing our social support networks.

How do we do this?

beautiful young african woman meditating at home

  • We must first identify what we can and cannot control.  Though we may not be able to prevent these stressors, we can control our reactions to them.  By being aware of our thoughts, emotions, and physical reactions at the moment of our negative experience, we can add space between the incident and our response — a practice that is helped by using “conscious breathing.” (Kabat-Zinn, 2009)  You can find information on conscious breathing at “3 Minute Breathing Space.”  Within this “space” we can look at our choices for our next move.  This process creates a state of mindfulness.  By taking an objective approach to our personal experiences, we are more aware of ourselves and our reactions and thereby, reinstate our sense of personal control and regulation.
  • We can reach out to other women — family members, friends, and colleagues — with whom we can discuss our experiences and share our emotional reactions.  Tapping into these social networks gives us the opportunity to talk about and recognize our emotions and receive critically needed support.  Talking to friends and family also fulfills our basic need to belong; a need that may not be satisfied in a work environment that quietly devalues ones identity.
  • Consider professional counseling services as a socially constructive way to cope with gendered racism.  A counselor can help you better understand how you think and feel as well as help you to create some strategies you can use to maintain a positive emotional state.
  • We must prioritize self-care.  Take the time to pay attention to your diet, exercise regularly, and engage in activities that you find relaxing.  Awareness of the mind-body connection is essential for effective stress management.

–Veronica Y. Womack, Ph.D.

Veronica Womack is a social psychologist in Chicago, Illinois.  She studies the psychosocial factors of career decisions and stress-related health behaviors among ethnic minorities.

 

Sources: Thomas AJ, Witherspoon KM, Speight SL. Gendered racism, psychological distress, and coping styles of African American women. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology. 2008;14(4):307.

Hall JC, Everett JE, Hamilton-Mason J. Black women talk about workplace stress and how they cope. Journal of Black Studies. 2012;43(2):207-226.

Kabat-Zinn J, Hanh TN. Full catastrophe living: Using the wisdom of your body and mind to face stress, pain, and illness. Random House LLC; 2009

Full Catastrophe Living (Revised Edition): Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness: http://www.amazon.com/Full-Catastrophe-Living-Revised-Edition/dp/0345536932/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1403107864&sr=8-1&keywords=full+catastrophe+living

 

COPYRIGHT©2014 by Living Well Black, Inc.