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For New Mothers, Silence Is Not Always Golden

Tonya is so excited to be pregnant with her first child. She is 6 months pregnant and has everything ready for the baby’s arrival. Her hospital bag and the baby’s car seat are packed and in the car. She already has the crib and baby room set up and has attended every baby class and read every baby book. While she feels prepared, there has been this sense of doom and a feeling of overwhelm that has been looming over her for the last couple of months. She is worried that something will go wrong during or after childbirth. She is also anxious about the financial strain that a new baby may create. Although she has the support of her partner, she also fears what tension the new addition may bring to their relationship. Tonya’s been drowning in these thoughts so much that she has been withdrawing from family and friends and, some days, finds it difficult to get out of bed and follow her daily routine. It’s starting to really concern her partner, who has fears of his own.

Although this story is fabricated, it may be a familiar reality for some new mothers. On the heels of celebrating our moms, there is also a realization that motherhood can be challenging for some new mothers. Feelings of depression, anxiety, and failure can ensue before, during, and after childbirth. According to a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 8 women experiences postpartum depression (PPD) following birth. Black women are 1.6 times as likely to be affected compared to their White counterparts but are less likely to seek diagnosis and treatment. The silence is attributed to the shame and stigma associated with seeking mental health services in times of struggle.

Black women are more likely to be susceptible to PPD because of lifestyle factors like low income, food insecurity, lack of access to prenatal and postnatal care, stressful living conditions, and exposure to trauma and/or domestic violence. There is also an issue with access to culturally sensitive mental health services because of the lack of ethnic representation in the mental health field, inaccurate diagnosis, suspicion of the healthcare system, and affordability. Untreated and undiagnosed mental health conditions have contributed to the rise in deaths during pregnancy—it is the leading causal factor. Each mother has a unique experience throughout their journey to parenthood, as are the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment for PPD.

Some symptoms of PPD and other perinatal mood disorders include:

  • Feelings of guilt, anger, anxiety, and/or fear.

  • Mood swings.

  • Loss of interest in things that previously brought joy.

  • Ignoring routine tasks like hygiene and appearance.

  • Withdrawing from family and friends.

  • Crying more than usual.

  • ·In extreme cases, harmful thoughts toward the baby and/or self.

Treatment can range from mental health counseling to pharmacology treatment. In addition, mothers should consult with their obstetricians, midwives, and doulas about the physical changes they are experiencing, and their mental well-being.



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