Millions of mothers, pregnant women, and other pregnant and parenting people are diagnosed with mood disorders, anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, or other maternal mental health issues every year. As the number one pregnancy complication in America, maternal mental health problems are more common than breast cancer and are a leading cause of maternal death. Women of color and those with low incomes are at much higher risk.
Parents with mental health problems are less able to support their children’s healthy growth and development, and they are less able to manage the responsibilities that come with the critical roles within their families.
The Importance of Equity
Women of color and those with low incomes are at much higher risk for maternal mental health disorders. Low socioeconomic status is the single greatest predictor of these disorders in the U.S. Some studies show that women of color experience postpartum depression at double the rate of all women. Often women of color or those with lower incomes receive limited medical support in general during and after pregnancy, so signs of distress may be overlooked. There may be a lack of knowledge about the possible problems that can arise during pregnancy and the resources available. Also, many women of color, particularly those who don’t speak English, may feel uncomfortable or unable to seek help or voice their concerns.
1 in 7
1 in 7 women will have a maternal mental health disorder.
Maternal Mental Health Intersects with Many Philanthropic Priorities
Many pregnant and parenting people live every day with racial bias, domestic or community violence, poverty, the denial of basic needs like health care, nutritious food, stable housing, child care, and other obstacles to their own lives, health, and well-being. The diverse factors affecting maternal mental health means that virtually all people and systems that interact with pregnant and parenting people can make a meaningful difference in getting families the help they need. We have a tremendous opportunity to increase supports and services for maternal mental health by exploring solutions across multiple systems.
Family economic security
Women’s health outcomes and birth equity
Early childhood education and development
Domestic violence and trauma
Early children’s health (pre-term) and mental health
Workforce development and post secondary education attainment
Child maltreatment/ foster care
Opioids and other substance use issues
Racial equity and social justice
There are Solutions
The good news is there are solutions that work. Investments in pregnant and parenting people to ensure that they get the culturally affirming supports and services they need during this critical time have lifelong positive impacts on the whole family.
As many as 50% of low-income mothers will have a maternal mental health issue