Inequity in the treatment of perinatal depression in mothers of color

Translation by Maythe Ruffino and Damaris Bernard

Upon learning of their pregnancy, women, among other things, experience a mixture of surprise, joy, and anxiety. Some of these pregnant women may even experience doubts and negative thoughts about their ability to raise a child. They may begin to lose sleep, experience depressive symptoms, and sometimes suicidal thoughts. These feelings and thoughts are common signs of possible perinatal depression.

Perinatal depression is a mood disorder in women during pregnancy. Often this happens within the first year after childbirth. Depressive perinatal symptoms may include hopelessness and sadness, low self-esteem, and changes in appetite, sleep, and energy levels.

When women experience perinatal depression after giving birth, it can damage their relationship with their baby. Without treatment, perinatal depression can lead to poor attachment to the baby, which is one of the basic needs of any newborn for healthy development. In addition, depression can lead to maternal abuse and neglect of the child, which can lead to developmental delay and even disability. Yes, perinatal depression can have such consequences if left untreated.

The lack of attention to maternal mental health and the social stigma that prevents women from seeking help with depression is a dangerous combination that leads to poor maternal mental health. It also has negative consequences in the development of newborns. Health care providers can quickly diagnose perinatal depression in pregnant women or mothers who have recently given birth if they consult with their physician. Perinatal depression is a devastating problem that affects many women in the United States, especially mothers of color.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) nationwide, about one in five women are not asked about depression during prenatal visits. More than half of women who have had depression during pregnancy suffer from it without treatment. Finally, one in eight women report symptoms of depression after giving birth.

This form of depression is a growing concern in the South Los Angeles area. The Los Angeles County Perinatal Mental Health Task Force reported that mothers of color tend to experience perinatal depression more frequently than other groups, and lower-income families are more likely to be affected. In addition, a history of trauma and lack of social support may increase the mother’s risk of perinatal depression. Given the lack of culturally acceptable treatment options, there is an ongoing need to acquire and use more resources and pay more attention to this issue. Many people in a mother’s life will tell her to get over her feelings and that it’s okay for them to feel down. This places a very unfair burden on mothers who already feel exhausted by pregnancy and overwhelmed by caring for their newborn.

Ongoing work to combat perinatal depression is carried out as part of the Health Equity Challenge. This is a program developed jointly by MolinaCares through the California Equity and Access Initiative and the Center for Health Policy Research at the University of California, Los Angeles. The Health Equity Challenge asked UCLA students to create proposals in partnership with community organizations to address health equity issues. One of the selected finalists, UCLA graduate student Alma Lopez, chose to focus on perinatal depression in mothers of color.

During the program, Alma, in collaboration with SHIELDS for Families, will work with forty participating mothers through peer support groups that SHIELDS for Families offers in English and Spanish. Program leaders will collect data and use the results to improve the mental health program for mothers of color in the future. In addition, during the program, managers will develop self-help tools for emotional well-being. They will also identify methods and resources that can reduce symptoms of perinatal depression in participating mothers.

Pregnancy and early motherhood are emotionally challenging for all mothers. However, too many mothers of color are unnecessarily burdened by adverse social factors. This makes the treatment of perinatal depression in mothers of color more challenging than in other groups of mothers. Perinatal depression has become a public health issue that our communities need to focus on to ensure that new mothers can receive the best care. In essence, mothers of color guide and inform mothers of color. On this basis, health care providers can better develop resources and treatments for mothers of color with perinatal depression.

Cameron Lewis MPA, Project Manager at SHIELDS for Families in Los Angeles.

Author: Cameron Lewis MPA
Source: La Opinion

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