Updated: Feb 7
What is Postnatal Depression?
During the first week of childbirth many mothers get what is known as the “baby blues” where the new mother feels mildly depressed, this has been linked to the sudden dip in hormones and the chemical changes that occur in the body after child birth. However, this should not last for more than 2 weeks. If the symptoms start later or last longer than 2 weeks it is usually an indicator of Postnatal Depression. Mothers managing Postnatal Depression tend to feel sad, have troubles bonding with their baby and withdraws from contact with others, amongst other symptoms (link).
How does Postnatal Depression impact Black women?
Postnatal Depression impacts around 10-20% of women who give birth (link), however all women are not impacted equally. Black women are more than twice as likely to experience Postnatal Depression than White women and Latino women (link). Whilst scientists are not entirely sure of why our risk factor is higher, one of the main reasons identified in association with this disparity, is that there are a larger proportion of Black women who come from a low socioeconomic backgrounds, which causes stress, a known contributor to Postnatal Depression (link).
Additionally, Black women are far less likely to get help for Postnatal Depression than White or Latino women and for the ones who do, they are far less to receive follow up treatment (link). Studies have identified a fear of being seen as an unfit parent and the threat of having their children taken away as a primary reason for Black women not seeking help (link). This isn’t a huge leap seeing that Black children are reported for abuse and neglect at much higher rate than other races (link), but studies also link the “strong black women” ethos as reason for Black women abstaining from help.
The main takeaway
As Black women we are more likely to get Postnatal Depression, so we should consciously go into childbirth aware of this and seek help with even the smallest of things. As we are less likely to get follow up treatment, we need to push for it. As a community, we need to keep an eye on our mothers and encourage them to get help when we see the signs of depression and ensure they are getting right level of attention when undergoing treatment. But ultimately, just knowing the facts and being supportive of one other will go a long way.