A Mother’s Tale: Overcoming post-partum depression & fighting for change
ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - A new Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report shows, in the last two decades, an increase in the number of women dying during pregnancy or within a year after giving birth.
One of the leading underlying causes of pregnancy-related deaths involves mental health.
Pregnancy-related deaths have hit a new high--- exceeding the rates of other countries. Women of color are the most impacted.
A Virginia mom is sharing her story of how she refused to suffer in silence from post-partum depression. Her name is Joyner Mines. She is a mom who says exercising helped save her life.
“I had to lean into what I eventually learned to be my love language, which is somebody coming in, stepping in, giving me a second to step away and move.”
But she says it hasn’t always been that way.
“In May of 2020, a week later, I found out that my mom had cancer for the third time and this time it was terminal,” said Mines. “I immediately jumped into not only the survival of being a new mother but the survival of losing my mother --- and then just the layers of becoming a mother while losing not only your mother but your best friend, your person.”
Feelings of depression and anxiety grew after having her first child.
“The reality of becoming a new mother is it’s a lot of not even wanting to take a picture of yourself because of how you look, because you haven’t had a chance to take a shower, because you haven’t had a chance to brush your teeth, because you haven’t had a chance to do your hair. It’s a lot of just trying to manage your own emotions while meeting this little new human, where they are in all of their big feelings, right,” said Mines. “Because they’re brand new here.”
Despite how common these issues are, women of color are less likely to receive treatment.
“As part of postpartum depression impacts about one in six pregnancies, Black women are 1.6 times more likely to develop the condition compared to white women, and Latina women are two times more likely to develop this,” said Breana Turner, MPH, a program director with Huddle Up Moms.
“I’ve checked all the boxes for severely not being okay,” said Mines. “For me, getting out of the space where I was suffering from postpartum depression --- I really had to lean into nobody can show up for you like you.”
Research shows some pregnancy-related deaths are due to medical providers missing signs during maternal and postpartum screenings. Other factors playing a part can include access to care, a missed or delayed diagnoses.
“Because I was like trying to answer honestly, right, and hoping that. oh, wow, maybe if I answer these questions, honestly, somebody will actually see on paper what I’m going through and give me some resources or just something, right, to get out of this space that I’m in. And that never happened,” said Mines.
Women of color are two to four times more likely to die of these causes than white women.
“Not only having to go through just what we have to experience from day to day with the Superwoman complex, but we’re also having to endure not being able to necessarily feel safe holding space for ourselves not to be okay,” said Mines.
Some leaders are working to change this.
US Senators Tim Kaine (VA) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) reintroduced the Mothers and Newborns Success Act-- a bipartisan legislation to promote maternal health and we’ll do racial inequalities in maternal and infant mortality.
“We can do grants, renovated programs, we can learn from those programs and hopefully spread those best practices to health care providers to expecting moms all over the country,” said Senator Kaine.
“Because if we don’t do that, and if you don’t emphasize that women, especially women of color, and Black women can need to take care of themselves. The world is not going to thrive for it and families are not going to be as healthy as they can be,” said Turner.
Fortunately, Joyner got the support she needed from her husband, close friends, and family,
“Just as someone who falls in love with the feeling that I get from movement and I also have fallen in love with sharing that feeling with others,” said Mines.
She hopes other moms find healing in exercise too and get the support they need when they need it most. Because suffering in silence is not an option.
Research shows more than 80% of pregnancy-related deaths in the U.S. are preventable.
Officials say ways this can be prevented are recognizing urgent maternal warning signs, providing timely treatment, and delivering respectful, quality care to all women.
In a statement from Virginia’s Maternal Mortality Review Team (MMRT), officials say they are in the early stages of grant-supported work that began in 2022. The goal of this work is to improve the timeliness of the identification and review of all pregnancy-associated deaths to help further understand the issue and the factors that are contributing to the rise in the rate.
This process will involve the addition of qualitative interviews with key informants that will be crucial to further understand the factors associated with maternal death.
Officials say they are also partnering with the Virginia Neonatal Perinatal Collaborative to implement policy and programmatic recommendations from the MMRT.
Black Maternal Week is every year from April 11-17 and May is Mental Health Awareness Month.
Additional resources and stories about maternal and mental health:
- Support new moms with postpartum depression: Postpartum Support Virginia
- WATCH: Discussing Black maternal health outcomes, solutions in Virginia
Resources for new mothers
- Postpartum Support International: This page has screening questions that can be helpful in identifying someone’s risk of having or developing perinatal mood or anxiety disorders.
- Maternal Mental Health Hotline: 1-833-9-HELP4MOMS — a confidential, 24-hour, toll-free number — new and expecting moms can now connect with professional counselors.
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