Updated: Feb 13, 2019
Self-care is an important part of maternal mental health care. Engaging in self-care can help reduce rates of postpartum depression. Currently 1 in 3 African American mothers have postpartum depression compared to the national average of 1 in 7 women in America. Self-care helps to build resilience and reduce vulnerability to mental health disorders. According to Mental Health America over 6.8 million African Americans are living with a mental health disorder. “Research from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai found that 44 percent of African Americans reported depressive symptoms two weeks after delivery, compared to 31 percent of white women”- Seleni Institute
Due to shame, vulnerability, and stigma associated with postpartum depression it is understandable that moms may feel guilty for seeking out mental health counseling or self-care services. Please know that you are not alone and that there are some activities you can try to help you on your road to recovery. Many of the research that exists for minority maternal mental health is qualitative and few statistics exist. However, research constantly cites that less than half of African American mothers that struggle with mental health disorders seek out the appropriate wellness supports.
Studies have shown that over three quarters of individuals with depression suffer from sleep disorders and report minimal appetite. It is important that mothers incorporate adequate sleep and healthy meals into their daily routines as part of their self-care activities. Please note that how we handle stress can impact our healthy self-care. Coping with stress in safe, healthy, and effective ways are forms of great self-care. Try this stress management checklist to see how you are faring or where you can improve.
Attending a support group can help reduce a mother’s feelings of depression and isolation. Support groups provide private mom centered spaces for mothers to express themselves with therapeutic support. Please be sure to identify your social supports or attend a local mother support group at your church, or via Postpartum Support International (PSI). PSI offers in person and online confidential support group nationwide, to learn more about their support groups please visit their website Postpartum.net. You can also read more about support groups and maternal mental health at Seleni.org.
Relaxation techniques such as acupuncture, yoga, and massage therapy can help reduce depressed mood. Postpartum massage can be an important and beneficial holistic health activity. Postpartum massage can produce several benefits such as pain relief, hormone regulation, improved sleep, and C-section recovery.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) “Only about one-quarter of African Americans seek mental health care, compared to 40% of whites”. Some moms may be riddled with intense guilt during their one-year postpartum phase. These moms may have had minimal sleep due to intense anxiety about their babies, and may feel anxious to leave their babies with loved ones or a baby sitter. These symptoms can impair help seeking and self care behaviors. “African Americans, especially women, are more likely to experience and mention physical symptoms related to mental health problems”- NAMI. If this is the case, please be sure to contact a local primary care physician or perinatal mental health therapist to help you cope with possible symptoms of postpartum anxiety. Speaking to a licensed mental health professional to talk about your stressors can help boost your mood and become an essential part of your self-care. You can locate a therapist at one of these two online directories Postpartum Project and Therapy for Black Girls.
Spiritual Self Care
Church and prayer are great forms of spiritual self-care. Please feel free to expand on your spiritual self-care via singing, donating to charitable causes, volunteering, meditating, reading a soul soothing uplifting book, or delegating tasks to others. Writing in a journal is also spiritually uplifting and is a great tool to bring with you to therapy sessions as well.
Create a spa day at home and subscribe to a curated self-care box for mothers via Hello Mama Box. Each month Hello Mama Box curates luxurious self-care items for moms to use at home or on the go. These boxes are also filled with positive affirmations to remind moms to stay committed to their self-care journey.
About the author:
Shivonne Odom is a licensed mental health therapist and owner of Akoma Counseling Concepts, LLC In Washington, DC and Maryland. Shivonne specializes in women’s issues and maternal mental health counseling. She is passionate about promoting positivity, self care, and mental health awareness.