Minority Mental Health is observed each year in July. It’s a time when we bring attention to the mental health issues affecting racial and ethnic minorities in the United States. But, did you know that this month also marks another incredibly important health observance? Black Maternal Mental Health Week, which runs from July 19th through July 25th, is a week dedicated to creating awareness about the mental health of Black moms during and after pregnancy.
The importance of good mental health
Having good mental health means feeling good emotionally, psychologically and socially. If you have one or more untreated mental health conditions, they may affect many aspects of your life. During pregnancy untreated mental health conditions can:
- Increase the risk of having chronic health conditions like heart disease. Chronic health conditions need to be treated to reduce the risk of pregnancy complications.
- Increase your risk for postpartum depression (PPD) and having a premature baby.
- Make it difficult for you to bond with your baby after birth. Developing bonds of love and trust help babies have good social and emotional development.
Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders and Black moms
Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs) are the most common complication of pregnancy. PMADs include depression during pregnancy, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorders and PPD, among others. Unfortunately, the risk factors associated with PMADs affect more Black women than white women in the United States. Some of the reasons for this include:
- Policies that impact access to quality medical care
- Financial barriers like not having paid time off from work
- Being more likely to have complications like premature birth and infant mortality
- Living in an unsafe neighborhood
- Chronic stress due to racism
- Implicit bias within our health care system. Implicit racial bias happens when we put labels or make judgment of people without being aware of it. Implicit racial bias can make us act or think in an unfair way towards people or social groups.
Although Black women are at a higher risk for PMADs, compared to white women, they are less likely to get treatment or to receive quality mental health care. Some of the obstacles Black moms face to receive treatment include challenges getting a diagnosis and fears of being stigmatized as an unfit mom. Stigma keeps people from the best possible care.
A call to action
On Monday, July 20th March of Dimes participated in a Twitter chat, hosted by Shades of Blue Project, along with great partners like the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) and the Preeclampsia Foundation. The theme of the chat was focused on the importance of acknowledging, respecting and supporting Black mothers and their mental health. It was a great event where we advocated for high quality, supportive, and culturally-responsive health care for Black women.
We are committed to keeping these very important conversations going. That’s why in honor of Black Maternal Mental Health Week we are hosting a Facebook Live event on Thursday, July 23rd at 2PM EST titled “Tips for Black Moms: Managing Stress and Anxiety”. We hope you will join us for what will be a thoughtful and rich exchange of ideas on how to best support Black mothers and their mental health.