Beyond the Baby Blues: Latina Moms & Postpartum Depression
08/30/2011 - 09:00 ||
Milestone birthdays are usually accompanied with mixed feelings, and for Thalía, who just turned 40, the mood is one of sadness.
“I have never faced such a difficult week in my life,” the Mexican singer tweeted on Monday. “On the 25th, my son Matthew is two months old, the 26th is my birthday and on the 27th, it will be three months since my mother passed away. I am convinced that these are challenges that life puts out to strengthen our souls.”
It could be that Thalía, who has been on an emotional rollercoaster since Matthew’s arrival, may be experiencing postpartum depression, a deep despair that affects up to 20 percent of mothers in the first year after childbirth. According to experts, Latinas suffer higher rates of the disorder than other cultures. Though the root cause is unknown, the symptoms go beyond the usual baby blues some new moms experience, and can range from feelings of worthlessness and a decreased ability to fulfill daily tasks to more severe thoughts about suicide and harming the baby.
Postpartum depression may be to blame for the recent death of a seven-month boy who was tossed from the fourth floor of a hospital parking garage in Southern California by his mother, Sonia Hermosillo, a 31-year-old illegal Mexican immigrant whose husband, Noe Medina, says is afflicted with the condition. “There is no grudge against my wife. Don’t judge her poorly. She was truly ill,” he said in Spanish during a press conference on Wednesday.
According to prosecutors, Hermosillo removed a helmet the boy, Noe Medina Jr., wore for congenital muscular torticollis—a twisting of the neck to one side—before hurling him over the edge. She then validated her parking ticket and drove off. “I don’t know if many people know what postpartum depression is, but in reality it is something very serious and needs to be treated,” her husband said.
But for some Latinas, getting treatment isn’t always clear-cut. According to Stephanie Morales, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in private practice in California specializing in perinatal mental health with an additional subspecialty within the Latina population, there are many barriers that first generation immigrants face when it comes to mental health.
“Generally speaking, first generation immigrants suffer economically, and the cost of mental health care can be expensive. Imagine if you were uninsured and undocumented? Seeking services is difficult,” says Morales. “Language and cultural barriers, and fear of the system are also factors that prevent women from getting help.”
What will become of Sonia Hermosillo is still unclear. She has been charged with attempted murder and felony child abuse and is awaiting arraignment on September 16. If she is indeed suffering from postpartum depression, this case proves just how important it is to seek help.
Postpartum Support International provides resources, support and information that are geographically, economically, culturally and linguistically appropriate depending on your situation.