By Consumers For Quality Care, on March 9, 2022
While 1 in 7 women experience postpartum mood disorders after the birth of their children, researchers have found that Black women, who may be particularly vulnerable to developing postpartum mood and anxiety disorders, face systemic racism, lack of access to mental health providers, and financial challenges that make their postpartum experiences all the more challenging, according to The Washington Post.
Bethany Riddick from Milwaukee began experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression nearly immediately after the birth of her son in March 2020. The COVID-19 lockdown only made matters worse. “I didn’t really have interest in anything,” said Riddick, 25. “Some days, I couldn’t pull myself out of bed, except to care for my son.”
Riddick sought mental health providers in the area, but many providers were not accepting new patients, and those with availability wouldn’t accept her state insurance, or even provide her with resources for low-income folks dealing with mental health issues.
Riddick was fortunately connected with Maroon Calabash, a Black doula collaborative started in 2016 that provides prenatal, birth and postpartum support for Black families in and around the Milwaukee area. Riddick was paired with a postpartum doula who spent three to eight hours with her each day for about six months to help care for her son.
Before the summer of 2020, only about a third of Maroon Calabash’s clients exhibited postpartum mood disorders. Since the pandemic began and protests of police brutality intensified, that number increased to nearly 100 percent, according to Lyanne Jordan, the co-founder and executive director of Maroon Calabash. “We saw a lot of parents with postpartum anxiety, a lot of parents scoring very high on postpartum depression screens, in numbers we had not seen in our doulas’ 20 years of experience,” Jordan said.
Thanks to grants from the Milwaukee Birthing Access Fund in collaboration with Prism Birth Services, an inclusive community midwifery organization, many mothers can access Maroon Calabash’s services free of charge. In a system that is often not getting Black mothers necessary assistance, nonprofits like Maroon Calabash are filling that void. They also work with a mental health group owned and run by people of color that consults with birth workers and offers emergency care for clients in need.
The House of Representatives Black Maternal Health Caucus has introduced legislation to provide training for about 30,000 doulas and expand postpartum Medicaid coverage from 60 days to 12 months, as part of its Momnibus Act. Portions of this legislation that have previously passed are now stalled in Congress.
CQC applauds nonprofit health services that seek to end disparities found in our health care system and ensure communities of color can equally access quality care. CQC also calls on lawmakers to address racial disparities found in our health care system.