This week, Maven is shining a light on Black maternal mental health. These stats call out just how alarming the Black maternal health crisis has become in the U.S. today.

  • 1 in 5 women experience Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders, which are symptoms of anxiety, stress, depression, or others during pregnancy or postpartum up to a year after birth
  • Black women in the U.S. are at a higher risk for Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder (PMADs) and are less likely to get treatment or receive quality mental healthcare
  • 1 in 3 African American mothers suffer from Postpartum Depression, compared with 1 in 7 white mothers in the U.S.
  • PMADs that are left untreated directly impact health outcomes for both mothers and babies, and lead to 90% higher healthcare costs overall

Mercedes Samudio, LCSW, spoke with us about her work with Black mothers experiencing anxiety or depression, and about some of the harmful narratives that exist around Black mental health that can create barriers to care.

  • Understanding Black maternal mental health requires that we look at it as a symptom of the Black mental health crisis in general. Black people are less likely to seek mental health care than their white peers because of the stigmas surrounding care.
  • Maternal mental health symptoms are rarely discussed, and many Black mothers do not recognize that anxiety or depression they might experience fits into clinical diagnoses.
  • Some symptoms include feelings of fatigue, anxiety, worry, overwhelm, dread, loneliness, uselessness, and not enjoying being a mother.
  • “Women are told that pregnancy and birth are supposed to be the happiest times of their life. And that may be true for the people around them. But for many women who have actually gone through it, it’s a mental, emotional, and spiritual ordeal that needs to be sorted through,” Mercedes said. She was quick to add: “Part of being a mother involves going through that period of anxiety or depression. By asking for help, and amplifying Black women’s voices, we can change the narrative.”
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And building awareness about how these narratives impact black mothers is crucial to helping improve Black maternal health outcomes across the board. Here are a few tips Mercedes shared that anyone can do to help change the story:

  • Recognizing that there is a lack of cultural competency surrounding Black people and their access to mental health resources, which stems from a history of broken trust between Black communities and social services.
  • Advocating for mental health providers to be integrated into pregnant womens’ care teams. This is core to Maven’s model for providing pregnant members with a team of experts to help guide them through every part of their journey into motherhood.
  • Elevating Black voices including Black educators and clinicians, as well as Black mothers to validate Black experiences of navigating the mental health care system. Conversations happening across the #amplifyblackvoices and #amplifymelanatedvoices hashtags are bringing better awareness to actions that we can take to center Black voices in conversations like these.
  • Realizing that mental health is just another part of a person’s holistic well-being can help significantly reduce stigmas that stop people from getting the care they need. By embracing care for the whole-person, we can start to eliminate stereotypes that contribute to the heightened rates of PMADs for black women.

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