Community in Crisis: Focus on Black Maternal Mental Health
While all mamas are at risk of mental health illness during or following pregnancy, Black women are much more likely than White mothers to suffer from a perinatal mood and anxiety disorder (PMAD) such as postpartum depression. In fact, close to 40% of Black mothers will suffer from postpartum depression -- a percentage that is more than DOUBLE the rate for the general population.
It’s another sobering statistic among a slew of data that underscores the disparity in maternal health care between Black mamas and the White population. Calling attention to this health crisis is the genesis of Black Maternal Health Week, founded and led by the Black Mamas Matter Alliance and officially recognized by the White House in April 2021.
But what leads to the increased rates of PMADs among Black mamas? Unfortunately, the reasons seem to be rooted in factors like socioeconomic status and systemic racism.
According to UPMC Western Behavioral Health, risk factors include:
- Lack of access to high-quality medical care
- Higher risk of pregnancy and childbirth complications: Black mothers are four times more at risk of maternal mortality than white mothers.
- Lack of social support
- Gaps in medical insurance
- Financial barriers, including lack of paid time off from work
- Unsafe neighborhoods
- Increased stress
- Exposure to trauma
The chasm widens when it comes to seeking treatment; although Black women are much more likely to suffer from a PMAD, they are less likely than White women to seek treatment. Reasons again point to the lack of access and distrust of the health system that stems from systemic racism:
- Lack of access to quality health care
- Distrust in health care system
- Lack of diversity in health care
- Less screening for mental health conditions in women of color
- Mental stigma
- Lack of insurance
During Black Maternal Health Week – and everyday – we stand alongside organizations like Black Mamas Matter Alliance and Birth Queen to amplify the voices of Black mamas and shine a light on the health crisis facing racial and ethnic minorities. Only by investing in the education, training, and empowerment of Black mamas can we advance healthcare equity. We believe in Black Mamas Matter’s credo:
“When investing in Black Mamas, we are pouring into the roots that act as the foundational strength of Black families and systems of care. We recognize, celebrate, and support those who care for and mother our families and communities whether they have given birth or not. We stand in solidarity with all Black mamas.”
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