Postpartum Depression & Latinas: What You Need To Know

Latinas Postpartum Depression

"I felt like a zombie," Gwyneth Paltrow revealed in a heartbreaking interview about her struggle with postpartum depression. "I couldn't access my heart. I couldn't access my emotions. I couldn't connect. I just thought it meant I was a terrible mother and a terrible person."

"I though postpartum depression meant you were sobbing every single day and incapable of looking after a child," she continued. "But there are different shades of it and depths of it, which is why I think it's so important for women to talk about it. It was a trying time. I felt like a failure."

MORE: Panel Calls For Postpartum Depression Screening During & After Pregnancy

Paltrow is far from alone in her struggle; a study from 2013 found that one in seven women suffer from postpartdum depression. Of those, 19.3 percent thought about harming themselves, and 22 percent also screened positive for bipolar disorder. Many believe that those numbers don't tell the full story, and a government appointed health panel recently advised that hospitals and doctors begin screening all women during and after pregnancy for depression.

But, what is postpartum depression? How is it different from the 'baby blues'? And what does it mean for Latinas? Get the facts below:

#1: What Are The Symptoms?  

Postpartum depression is believed to be caused by hormonal and physical shifts caused by childhood and delivery as well as the emotional stress of becoming a parent. It is generally classified by the symptoms of depression, but parents should pay attention to symptoms unique to PPD, such as feeling numb or disconnected to your baby, having scary or negative thoughts about the baby, worrying that you will hurt the baby, or feeling guilt about not being a good mom. 

#2: How Is It Different From 'The Baby Blues'? 

The baby blues — which affects as many as 80 percent of mothers — is characterized by brief periods of uncontrollable crying, lethargy and insecurity. The key word: brief. The baby blues only last a few days or weeks. The symptoms of postpartum depression last much longer than a few weeks and are often much more severe.

#3: How Many Latinas Suffer From PPD?

A study from 2009 found that 32 percent of pregnant Latinas suffer from depressive symptoms, compared to 11 to 20% of the general population. Overall, Latinos suffer from higher rates of depression than their peers and are less likely to seek treatment for mental illness than non-Hispanic whites.

Doctors and experts attribute this increased risk to a variety of cultural and economic factors, including high levels of stressors, low incomes, large families, low levels of education, and poor housing. Healthcare barriers and lack of knowledge of healthcare systems in the United States also delays access to screenings and treatment options. 

#4: How Can I Get Screened?

Many women stay mum about their symptoms because they feel an overwhelming societal pressure to project a happy facade during and after pregnancy. Consequently, 66 percent of pregnant women with depression never receive a diagnosis, according to data from the CDC. However, if you suspect you or a loved one suffers from postpartum depression, take them to a doctor for a screening or have them complete the recommended Edinburgh Post Natal Depression Scale online.

#5: What Can I Do To Get Better?

Postpartum depression does not make you a bad parent. See a doctor, who can get your the help you need. Treatments include therapy or antidepressants. It is vital that you get the help you need. Too often, Latinas fail to seek help for mental illness. In fact, just five percent of Latinas initiate postpartum mental health care, compared to nine percent of white, non-Hispanic women.

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PLUS: Why This Latina Created A Photo Project On Mental Illness In Communities Of Color