Black Perinatal Mental Health: Prioritizing Maternal Mental Health to Optimize Infant Health and Wellness

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Front Psychiatry. 2022 Apr 29;13:807235. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2022.807235. eCollection 2022.


Infant mental health is interconnected with and affected by maternal mental health. A mother or birthing person’s mental health before and during pregnancy and the postpartum period is essential for a child’s development. During the first year of life, infants require emotional attachment and bonding to strive. Perinatal mood disorders are likely to hinder attachment and are associated with an increased risk of adverse mental health effects for children later in life. The Black community is faced with a crisis as Black mothers experience a higher prevalence of perinatal mood disorders, including postpartum depression and anxiety, compared to the United States national estimates. The aim of the research is to identify social, structural, and economic disparities of Black perinatal women and birthing people’s experience to understand the impact of perinatal mental health on infants’ mental health. Black mothers and birthing people may often face social and structural barriers that limit their opportunity to seek and engage with interventions and treatment that address the root causes of their perinatal mood disorder. To enhance understanding of racial disparities caused by social and structural determinants of health on Black mothers and birthing people’s mental health and health care experiences that influence infant mental health, the study team conducted semi-structured interviews among self-identified cisgender Black women health professionals nationwide, who provide care to pregnant or postpartum Black women and birthing people. Our study attempted to identify themes, pathways, interventions, and strategies to promote equitable and anti-racist maternal and infant mental health care. Using a Rigorous and Accelerated Data Reduction (Radar) technique and a deductive qualitative analytic approach it was found that limited access to resources, lack of universal screening and mental health education, and the disjointed healthcare system serves as barriers, contribute to mental health issues, and put Black mothers and birthing people at a disadvantage in autonomous decision making. Our study concluded that instituting education on healthy and culturally appropriate ways to support infant development in parent education programs may support Black parents in establishing healthy attachment and bonds. Prioritizing strategies to improve maternal mental health and centering Black parents in developing these educational parenting programs may optimize parenting experiences.

PMID:35573337 | PMC:PMC9098970 | DOI:10.3389/fpsyt.2022.807235