Black mothers and parents are more likely to experience postpartum depression than any other demographic, but support is available to help see you through this.

According to a 2020 report by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, between 2014 and 2018, rates of pregnancy and childbirth complications rose. About 7 in every 1,000 pregnant people experienced complications during both pregnancy and birthing.

And although pregnancy and childbirth complications can affect people of any racial or ethnic background, they disproportionately affect minority mothers and parents ― especially Black mothers and parents.

Even in the period after childbirth, Black people are more likely to be affected by health conditions like postpartum depression.

Below, we’ll discuss the impact of postpartum depression on Black mothers, including how this condition is diagnosed and treated and where to get support if you’re experiencing the symptoms of postpartum depression.

What is postpartum depression?

Postpartum depression describes the type of depression that can affect people after having a baby.

Much like major depression, postpartum depression is a relatively common condition, affecting roughly 1 in 8 people who have recently given birth, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Postpartum depression can develop due to several causes, including hormonal changes, stress and anxiety, and even sleep deprivation. If you have been diagnosed with postpartum depression, there are ways to get the support you need so you can recover.

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Postpartum depression affects mothers and parents of every race and ethnicity. However, research has shown that Black people who give birth are more likely to experience a number of childbirth-related complications, including postpartum depression.

Not only are Black mothers and parents at a higher risk of developing postpartum depression, but they’re also disproportionately affected by the condition.

In one study from 2020, researchers explored the racial and ethnic differences in people who sought hospital-based care for postpartum depression. According to the study results, Black women were more likely to end up in the hospital for postpartum depression than any other racial or ethnic group.

Another study from 2022 explored the connection between trauma during childbirth and the risk of developing postpartum depression.

Results of the study found that not only did Black people experience the highest levels of childbirth trauma, but these traumatic experiences were significant risk factors in developing postpartum depression.

One of the reasons Black people are disproportionately affected by postpartum depression is because of the barriers to mental health care that Black communities face.

Factors such as a lack of access to services and racial bias from healthcare professionals, among many others, can make it difficult for Black women and mothers to get the care they need.

And even when Black mothers and parents seek treatment for symptoms of postpartum depression, they may not always get the diagnosis they need for treatment.

In fact, recent research found that minority parents were not only less likely to receive a diagnosis of postpartum depression but were also less likely to receive a timely diagnosis if they were diagnosed.

Postpartum depression has many of the same symptoms as depression. You might feel worthless, helpless, or hopeless. It can make it difficult for you to have any energy, motivation, or interest in your hobbies and life.

It can also cause symptoms like:

With postpartum depression, however, you may also notice other symptoms ― especially those related to your baby ― such as:

  • feeling withdrawn from your friends, family, and loved ones
  • feeling like you can’t emotionally connect with your baby
  • having doubts about your parenting abilities or worth as a parent
  • experiencing episodes of crying or anger, more so than usual

The realities of being a new parent, like lack of sleep and proper nutrition, can also compound the symptoms of postpartum depression.

If you or someone you love has been experiencing postpartum depression, there’s no shame in reaching out to a doctor for help.

You’re not alone

If you’re feeling depressed following childbirth, these organizations can help provide you with the resources and support you need to get better:

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Postpartum depression can be managed using a variety of approaches, including both therapy and medications.

Therapy approaches like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), sometimes called talk therapy, have been shown to be effective for mental health conditions like postpartum depression.

Medication, especially when used in combination with therapy, can help ease some of the symptoms you may be experiencing. In fact, one medication, Zulresso (brexanolone), has been specifically approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat postpartum depression.

Learn more about coping with postpartum depression.

Community support for postpartum depression

Research shows that having high levels of social support is an important protective risk factor against the development of postpartum depression.

Many local organizations have social and community programs to help pregnant people access not only prenatal care, but also postnatal care ― including mental health care.

Even if you’re not able to make in-person events, some organizations, like Postpartum Support International, offer national helplines and virtual support group sessions.

Learn more about healing trauma and depression in the Black community.

As Black mothers and parents remain disproportionately affected by childbirth-related conditions like postpartum depression, it becomes even more important to advocate for equity in healthcare.

And when it comes to treating and managing postpartum depression, what Black mothers and parents need more than anything is support ― support from family and friends, unbiased support from healthcare professionals, and equitable social support that helps Black communities access the mental health resources they need.