Now Is the Time to Prioritize Black Maternal Mental Health

Now Is the Time to Prioritize Black Maternal Mental Health
Now Is the Time to Prioritize Black Maternal Mental Health

Mental Health of Black Mothers

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WWe need to discuss perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs) and their impact on maternal mental health. It’s a major complication for pregnant and postpartum women, with one in seven experiencing them. However, for me, as a black woman, the rate is higher. Studies show that 40 percent of black births experience maternal mental health symptoms. However, despite the prevalence of these problems, Black women are less likely to receive treatment due to various barriers, including stigma, fear, and low availability of services from Black providers.

In addition, the deterioration of our collective villages exacerbates the problem. As a result, black women often find themselves raising their children alone or with little support. As new parents, we deserve a group of knowledgeable and helpful women to help us navigate the challenges of parenthood. However, as the stress of a PMAD increases, a lack of support can be devastating. We deserve to be supported and loved.

It’s time for healthcare systems to recognize the importance of a child’s mental health in the first 1,000 days of life, including the emotional, psychological and physical stress experienced by those who give birth. Unfortunately, these issues often go unaddressed, and after delivery, we go home with a new toddler who needs us, often without the support we need ourselves.

It is unacceptable for Black women to struggle to find a mental health provider. Even if we can find one or two people who accept our insurance, there’s no guarantee we’ll click on that person. We need choice and social support from professionals and people who know us and love us.

Racism and discrimination further compound the problem. As a result, Black women are often left unheard of, from our pain during childbirth to our postpartum mental health and physical wellbeing. We need more Black birth workers and mental health providers who understand our unique challenges. Healthcare leaders should train pediatricians to check in with those in labor during appointments, starting within a week of the child’s birth. Finally, local capacity to care for Black mothers and mothers must be improved.

As a black woman who works in public health and has experienced perinatal depression and anxiety, I know how difficult it can be to navigate the system. I am pregnant with my third child. When I recognized the signs of prenatal depression during my first pregnancy, I had a hard time finding a provider. I have private insurance and know people, but it’s still challenging. I didn’t have family or many close friends locally to turn to for support when I developed postpartum anxiety.

I remember how I felt watching my parents drive away a week or two postpartum. My husband is back at work and I need to take the kids to an appointment. I’m terrified of driving. I thought I was going to have a meltdown, or that the baby was going to choke when I couldn’t see her, and I was afraid to tell anyone. When I got back to work, I remember crying in the bathroom every day and obsessively checking daycare apps to make sure I had put the baby down and not left her in my car. My anxiety was so high and so real. But I navigated a system that I understood, and I was able to survive. Now that I know I am prone to pre and postpartum mental health issues while pregnant, I will do my due diligence and find a professional to support me. I recognize that these systems and these choices are not easy or common sense for everyone. You don’t have to be trained in this to get the quality service you deserve and many need.

Now is the time to prioritize Black maternal mental health. We need more resources and support to break down the barriers that prevent us from getting the care we deserve. So let’s start a conversation and work together to make a difference.

See also:

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