Charlotte mental health organization bringing awareness to postpartum mental health disorders affetcing Black mothers

Perinatal Mood or Anxiety Disorders (PMADS) affect Black women as a disproportionate rate
Statistically speaking, black women are more likely to have complications.
Published: Jul. 19, 2022 at 8:30 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - A Houston organization’s efforts to educate people on Black maternal mental health disparities are expanding its reach in Charlotte.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Black women are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications compared to white women. Those complications aren’t always physical.

Kay Matthews is the Founder of Shades of Blue in Houston, Texas. Matthews created Black Maternal Mental Health Week four years ago to bring awareness to Perinatal Mood or Anxiety Disorders (PMADS) and how it affects Black women at a higher rate. BMMHW is from July 19 to July 25.

According to Postpartum Support International (PSI), 15 to 20% of women experience more significant symptoms of depression or anxiety during and after childbirth compared to others who experience milder mood swings.

Research shows that Black women are at a higher risk of PMADS.

“One in three to four women will experience PMADS,” Tiffany Bishop said.

Here in Charlotte, Tiffany Bishop and Whitney Coble are also honoring Black Maternal Mental Health week and bringing awareness to the symptoms, and encouraging mothers to get treatment.

Both Bishop and Coble are licensed mental health therapists and cofounded their practice, Raising Resilience.

“We really want to educate other Black women to know this is what this might be and these are the things to look for,” Bishop said.

Both women say PMADS is not to be confused with postpartum depression or “baby blues,” although the symptoms do look similar.

PSI states the symptoms can appear anytime during pregnancy and up to 12 months after childbirth.

“Stomach aches, body pain, we tend to think those are the wear and tears of postpartum, but it also can be the symptoms of anxiety and depression,” Coble said. In addition, Coble said increased sweating is also a sign.

Charlotte mother Brittney Smith started noticing the signs of PMADS after the birth of her daughter in 2021. She didn’t realize she was experiencing PMADS at first.

“After I had her, I used to cry every day in the shower for weeks,” Smith said. “I just thought I was depressed and I noticed I shouldn’t really be depressed because I just had a baby.”

Smith says she had trouble sleeping, eating, constant crying, had anxiety, and was always overwhelmed.

Smith said she asked her mother and friends for directions and answers to no avail before seeking support at Raising Resilience.

“It wasn’t depression the way that I thought it was, I actually had postpartum OCD.”

Postpartum is one of the many forms of PMADS in addition to anxiety, psychosis, depression, and Bipolar Disorder.

Researching and educating other current and expecting moms about PMADS is personal for Bishop who developed postpartum anxiety after the birth of her daughter in 2017.

“Like most people, I really only knew was postpartum depression was, and what I was experiencing I knew it wasn’t that,” Bishop said. “I’m not said, I’m not crying, I don’t have difficulty sleeping, I just really felt on edge.”

After experiencing PMADS herself, Bishop went to a conference with Coble where they both learned about the signs, effects, and symptoms of PMADS. They created Raising Resilience in 2018 offering individual and couples therapy along with holistic mental health support.

Coble says it’s critical mothers get treatment, because if left untreated, they may see a decline in their mental health and experience more physical effects.

“We forget the toll that pregnancy and postpartum take on the brain. It makes the brain more alert but it also puts the brain in a state of constant alertness which is not always good and can have some long-lasting effects, if you don’t have the skills, support, and the tools to manage it.”

The bottom line is, that both Raising Resilience and Smith want expecting and current mothers to know if they’re experiencing PMADS that it is normal and common, and ultimately it can be treated.

“The most important thing is to get help with someone who specializes in maternal mental health,” Smith said.

Raising Resilience is speaking on a panel, Monday, July 25 with Shades of Blue discussing the effects of PMADS and sharing stories from Black mothers. In addition, they are releasing a public service announcement that shares the importance of maternal mental health therapy and resources.

“I want us to learn from the living, I want us to know, yes it’s going to be a challenge, but it doesn’t have to be so rough, you don’t always have to hear the worst, there are success stories when it comes to Black women’s pregnancies and postpartum journeys,” Coble said.

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