Why Do So Many Latinas Suffer From Postpartum Depression?

Why Do So Many Latinas Suffer From Postpartum Depression?

On Monday, Chrissy Teigen bravely shared her story of being diagnosed with postpartum depression after the birth of her daughter Luna last year. 

MORE: Postpartum Depression & Latinas: What You Need To Know

"I couldn’t figure out why I was so unhappy ... I looked at my doctor, and my eyes welled up because I was so tired of being in pain, of sleeping on the couch, of waking up throughout the night, of throwing up, of taking things out on the wrong people, of not enjoying life, of not seeing my friends, of not having the energy to take my baby for a stroll. My doctor pulled out a book and started listing symptoms. And I was like, 'Yep, yep, yep.' I got my diagnosis: postpartum depression and anxiety," she said.

It's a story I can relate to. 

There is no greater joy than anticpating the birth of your first child. Yet, after my daughter Olive was born, four years ago, I fell into the biggest depression of my life. Like Teigen, I rarely left the house. I cried all the time and didn't have the energy to enjoy my baby. All my mommy friends who had children around the same time as me would post endless photos of their babies on social media: laughing and cooing in cute outfits. I felt guilty because I wasn't enjoying Olive the way I felt I should, and it wasn't until weeks later that I realized that I was depressed.  

While it must be noted that I never received a formal diganosis and never took medication, I did start seeing a therapist and a natural healer. This, along with the amazing support of my husband and time, helped me get better.

In many ways, I was lucky. My sadness eventually dissipated and never once did I want to hurt myself or my baby. Maybe, what I felt was "normal" for a first-time mom, though honestly I felt far from "normal." I felt like Adele described in her Grammy's speech this year when she said, "Becoming a mother, I lost a lot of myself and I struggled." 

I'm really grateful that women like Teigen are speaking up. Even though she admits she is still reticent to label herself as "depressed," postpartum depression occurs enough that we should be talking about this way, way more.

Up to 80 percent of women will experience the “baby blues” in the first few weeks postpartum, which is a period of emotional fluxuations that include sadness and weepiness. But 20 percent of all women will experience perinatal mood or anxiety disorders (PMADs) after having a baby, and studies show that for Latina women, that number triples or even quadruples. What's really scary about these stats is that many Latinas, like me, are less likely to seek treatment because we think it will pass or that we can "handle it."

While researchers are still investigating why Latina mothers experience PMADs at such higher rates, some point to high-level stressors like large families, low income and health care barriers. Other experts also talk about our cultural tendencies as Latinas to take care of everyone over ourselves as well as our hesitance to ask for help, both of which I have been guilty of.

Regardless of reason, we need to ask ourselves what we can do to protect and support ourselves and our fellow hermanas who might be suffering.

Some of these symptoms include:

-Feeling unable to function or that your symptoms are unbearable
-Not being able to sleep even when you are exhausted
-Wanting to sleep all the time
-Crying continuously
-Feeling intense rage
-Not being able to enjoy your baby at all
-Feeling afraid of your baby
-A dramatic change in appetite
-Experiencing constant fear about your baby being harmed
-Not doing activities you normally enjoy
-Thinking about harming yourself
-Believing your family would be better off without you

“Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, or PMADs, are one of the most common complications of pregnancy, just like gestational diabetes, and they are nothing to be ashamed of. They do not mean that you are a bad mother or that you do not want your baby,” said Dr. Christiane Manzella, the clinical director of the Seleni Institute, a nonprofit organization and clinic dedicated to reproductive and maternal mental health. “PMADs are common and treatable, so if your symptoms last longer than two to three weeks and you feel them constantly, it’s time to talk with your healthcare provider about whether you may need additional support to feel better.”

If you or a friend or loved one are experiencing the above symptoms, visit your doctor as well as sites like seleni.org and postpartumprogress.com for more infomation.

PLUS: Beyond the Baby Blues: Latina Moms & Postpartum Depression

And let's not be afraid to share our experineces. We can't fix what we can't see, so it's imperative we speak up. If you're shy or scared to tell your story, know that it may help another Latina who's in pain right now.