Study Uncovers Racial Disparities in Postpartum Depression Treatment

A new study has found racial disparities in the treatment of postpartum anxiety and depression disorders. The research was led by Sarah Haight, doctoral candidate in epidemiology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Jamie Daw, assistant professor of health policy and management at Columbia University in New York.

The research team examined data from 4,542 people from across the country who had given birth in 2020 and found that 11.8 percent of participants reported symptoms of depression within six months postpartum. Of those who reported depressive symptoms, half received some kind of mental health treatment within their first year postpartum, and 25 percent received a diagnosis for perinatal mood and anxiety disorder (PMAD).

No racial disparities were found in the diagnosis of PMAD among the study’s participants, however, inequities were discovered among the respondents who received treatment for their depressive symptoms. About two-thirds of White participants received mental health treatment within their first year postpartum compared to 37 percent of Black respondents.

According to the researchers, PMAD can exacerbate the physical, mental, and social difficulties of the postpartum time period. They believe their findings point towards the need of updated policies that require mental health screenings for postpartum mothers and cultural sensitivity training for the clinicians who treat them.

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