Postpartum depression is a mental health issue that can occur in new parents after childbirth, and is often influenced by external socioeconomic factors. Most associate postpartum depression with the “baby blues,” which is a feeling that is common among as much as 80% of new mothers (World Health Organization 2003 Report). Postpartum depression causes mothers to feel exhausted, anxious, and depressed for a few weeks after their childbirth; however, it eventually fades over time. Although many of the symptoms and descriptions may sound similar, postpartum depression is lengthy and causes more severe issues than “baby blues.” Only 15% of women report feeling these emotions after childbirth (Healthline). It can cause a feeling of despair, strong mood swings, and exhaustion. The intensity of those feelings can make it challenging to resume your life and care for your family. To put it shortly, postpartum depression “may eventually interfere with your ability to care for your baby and handle other daily tasks” (Mayo Clinic, 2018).
Postpartum depression can leave a lasting impact on individuals, but what causes it? There's no cause of postpartum depression, but different physical and emotional issues impact a mother's chances of getting it. For example, your hormones drop dramatically after childbirth, leaving you feeling unmotivated, worn-out, and miserable. With these feelings of anxiety, fatigue, and self-identity issues, women may feel that their life is spiraling out of control and may subconsciously lose important decision-making skills. Although these are some causes for postpartum depression, there are several other risk factors that make it probable for new mothers to experience it. Risk factors include familial and personal history of mental health issues such as depression or bipolar disorder, high levels of stress experienced during pregnancy, low socioeconomic status, and relationship problems. If the pregnancy was unwanted/unplanned or the baby was born with special needs or severe health issues, it may also increase the likeliness of postpartum depression. Another factor that must be considered when analyzing womens’ risk of postpartum depression is whether or not they have previously experienced postpartum depression.
As mentioned, the mood swings and tiredness caused by “baby blues” are a common occurrence. However, there are certain signs that indicate that this issue could be much more severe. Some symptoms of postpartum depression include crying frequently for no reason, insomnia, or having excessive sleep. Other symptoms include overeating or barely eating at all, feeling unexplained illnesses, pains and feelings, and mood swings. Additionally, you may have difficulty recalling things and find it difficult to make decisions. Commonly, women struggling with postpartum depression feel a need to escape because they feel guilty for their ill feelings against themselves and their baby. In extreme cases, mothers think of harming their child or themselves.
These symptoms can cause serious problems in an individual's life because it affects themselves, their family, and their child. It is important that these mothers reach out to someone—a family member, spouse or significant other, and especially a doctor. It is important to treat postpartum depression before it worsens. There are different treatments for postpartum depression, such as therapy and antidepressants. Different medications balance the different chemicals and hormonal levels linked to the brain and depression. Another option is going to counseling and talking to someone like a psychologist or therapist. Besides medical options, there are other things that mothers can do to revitalize, such as exercising, being adventurous, going to support groups, relaxing, and being around loved ones.
Postpartum depression is ubiquitous as it affects everyone regardless of race, religion, or ethnicity. However, studies found that 38% of Black mothers are susceptible to postpartum depression when compared to 13% to 19% of other mothers (Psychology Benefits Society). These symptoms and feelings are often left untreated for many reasons. One is the fact that the majority of Black women lack necessary checkups and medical assistance. It is estimated that almost 60% of colored women do not receive any services or treatment at all! (Psychology Benefits Society). A research reported by KidsHealth explains that services such as counseling and therapy, as well as medicinal treatment regimes, can significantly reduce these symptoms and provide relief.
If we understand that these processes work, then why can’t everyone have access? For starters, studies have shown that Black women do not usually get help or receive treatment because of their culture and societal constructs surrounding mental illnesses and postpartum depression (Parents.Com). For many women, seeking a professional about their mental health can be interpreted as a sign of fragility. There are also significant differences in the prescriptions, treatment, and care of Black individuals with a low socioeconomic status compared to caucasian women. For example, women of colour and women in low-income households receive limited access to many services in health, such as a lack of providers of colour, low or limited culturally/linguistically helpful services, and less access to important resources like insurance and community support. Every woman struggling with postpartum depression can greatly benefit from access to these resources despite their socioeconomic status.
Postpartum depression can have a tolling effect on an individual. Many families will continue to struggle unless changes are made to assist women. Postpartum depression is a common mental health issue that must be taken seriously in the health community and by the public.
Andoh, Efua. “Postpartum Depression and Race: What We All Should Know.” Psychology Benefits Society, 21 June 2016, psychologybenefits.org/2016/06/21/postpartum-depression-in-women-of-color/.
Carter, Christine Michel. “Black Moms Are Suffering from Postpartum Depression in Silence and That Needs to Change.” Parents.Com, 16 Aug. 2019, www.parents.com/baby/health/postpartum-depression/black-moms-are-suffering-from-postpartum-depression-in-silence-and-that-needs-to-change/.
“Postpartum Depression (for Parents) - Nemours KidsHealth.” KidsHealth, The Nemours Foundation, Jan. 2020, kidshealth.org/en/parents/ppd.html.
“Postpartum Depression.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 1 Sept. 2018, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/postpartum-depression/symptoms-causes/syc-20376617.
“Postpartum Depression: What You Should Know.” WebMD, 14 Mar. 2021, www.webmd.com/depression/postpartum-depression/understanding-postpartum-depression-basics.