The outcry for equity in Black maternal health is more critical than ever. Statistics paint a grim picture.

Black mothers in the U.S. are dying at three to four times the rate of white mothers. Between 29 – 44% of Black women experience postpartum depressive symptoms after childbirth. Black moms are less likely to be diagnosed and treated for postpartum mood disorders. Despite being twice as likely to suffer from it, only 4% of Black moms receive postpartum mental health care, compared to 9% of white moms. 

While motherhood is full of beauty and joy, it also has its fair share of very low lows. There’s a lot of mommy bloggers and content on parenting, breastfeeding and sleep training. Now, more Black women are speaking up and sharing their experiences with postpartum depression. 

What Postpartum Depression Looks Like

Postpartum depression is a post-birth mood disorder. It is a more extreme case of what is commonly referred to as the “baby blues,” which are the feelings of sadness, fatigue and anxiety in the days after giving birth. Symptoms of postpartum depression are severe and may include mood swings, crying spells, anxiety and difficulty sleeping. 

Dr. Danielle Hairston is the residency program director at the Howard University College of Medicine. She explains that postpartum depression might show up as fear, anxiety and guilt. 

“You may often hear mothers talk about feeling overwhelmed and exhausted,” Hairston explained. “They may also be disconnected from the baby and not want to engage at the level you would expect.”

Shanicia Boswell is the author of “Oh Sis, You’re Pregnant!” and founder of Black Moms Blog®️ and The Self Care Retreat, an international retreat destination for women of color to release, relax and unwind.

“Postpartum depression is debilitating,” Boswell told 21Ninety. “It can cause women to completely tap out of reality and become a different person and, in more serious cases, to harm themselves, their children or others.”

How Long Does Postpartum Depression Last

While the feelings attached to baby blues typically only last three to five days and typically go away. Postpartum symptoms also last much longer than those that come with the baby blues. 

“We’re concerned when symptoms persist more than two weeks, but it can last up to a year after birth,” Dr. Hairston explained.

If feelings of emptiness and sadness last more than two weeks, women are encouraged to seek professional help, as hopelessness after childbirth is not a regular or expected part of being a mother. 

Boswell says she does not personally believe in averages with postpartum depression. 

“There isn’t a timeline on depression,” she said. “Postpartum depression can go on for a few months to many years and can occur right after birth and sometimes not until much later on.”

Tips for Treating Postpartum Depression

Support is critical for moms dealing with postpartum depression. 

“Mothers need to know that there are people who are there for them when they feel overwhelmed,” Dr. Hairston said. 

She suggests prioritizing sleep, joining a mother or parent circle or group, doing things outside of being a mother to remember who you are as well as seeking professional help. 

Boswell urges the woman experiencing postpartum depression to contact a doctor immediately versus trying to cope with her problems silently. Black women have a difficult time recognizing when to get professional help because they think it means something is wrong with them.

“As someone who works in the holistic healing space, I have witnessed people who think sunlight, journaling and meditation can ‘cure’ hormonal or psychological disorders, and it’s simply not true,” she explained. 

When you are teetering that line of mental health, Boswell emphasizes that Black women have to become comfortable calling on the professionals. She also disparages common misconceptions that cause women to feel like they have to do it all alone and have it all together.

“We don’t have to have it all figured out,” Boswell reassured. “It doesn’t matter if it’s your first baby or your fourth, bringing life into this world deserves all the grace we can muster.”