Women of Color Discuss Unique Issues Surrounding PostPartum Depression

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Professor Robert H. Keefe PhD, LMSW, ACSW School of Social Work, University at Buffalo State University of New York, Buffalo, New York

Dr. Robert Keefe

Professor Robert H. Keefe PhD, LMSW, ACSW
School of Social Work, University at Buffalo
State University of New York, Buffalo, New York

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Keefe: The study focuses on recommendations mothers of color, who have histories of postpartum depression, would make to service providers that they believe would improve service effectiveness. The study is timely inasmuch as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act mandates ongoing research to better understand and address differences in treatment needs among mothers from racial and ethnic groups and to develop culturally competent, evidence-based treatment approaches.

We were concerned that the research on postpartum depression relies heavily on White mothers, who have access to care, ongoing relationships with service providers, are married or otherwise coupled, and from middle-class backgrounds. While the limited research on mothers of color notes their rates of postpartum depression are markedly higher than White mothers, it does little to address how their treatment needs differ from White mothers.

We undertook this study to get recommendations from the mothers and discovered that many of the issues that inhibit the mothers from accessing services are the very issues that lead mothers to have postpartum depression. For example, many of the mothers report because they have poor-paying jobs, no health benefits, and limited transportation, they are unable to keep appointments despite wanting to do what is best for their newborn babies. Furthermore, because they missed appointments, the service provider would terminate the mother from a service the mother needs, or worse contact Child Protective Services to report the mother for neglect. The mothers were not at all neglectful. They were all invested in their child’s wellbeing; but various life problems kept mounting up so that they and their babies were not receiving ongoing care.

Consequently, the recommendations these mothers make have little to do with psychotherapy. In fact, most of the mothers reported they had no time to be depressed and that psychotherapy was a luxury they could not afford. Instead, the mothers wanted service systems in place that would allow them to receive the care they need so that they and their new-born babies could live happy and health lives.

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Dr. Keefe: The mothers we interviewed want to be “good mothers.” Many work two and three jobs, go to school, and sacrifice their own medical care for their children’s. Although they acknowledged how severe their depression had been, other more pressing issues needed to be addressed so that the mothers could benefit from therapy. Among the pressing issues are having jobs that pay livable wages, health benefits, and service providers who accept Medicaid.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Keefe: Research should begin focusing more heavily on mothers of color (as specified in the Affordable Care Act), and the policies set forth by healthcare agency funders that make it difficult for mothers to access and continue participating in ongoing care. Likewise, research that which services are most helpful to postpartum mothers from diverse cultures is sorely needed.

Finally, research on current best practices needs to be expanded to include mothers from all racial and ethnic groups to assure mothers are receiving the best possible care.

MedicalResearch.com: Thank you for your contribution to the MedicalResearch.com community.


Having our say: African-American and Latina mothers provide recommendations to health and mental health providers working with new mothers living with postpartum depression


Robert H. Keefe PhD, LMSW, ACSWa*, Carol Brownstein-Evans PhD, LMSW, ACSWb & Rebecca S. Rouland Polmanteer LMSWa

Published online: 15 Mar 2016

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