Expert Insights: The Role of Family Support in Alleviating Postpartum Depression

Omugwo, a cherished tradition in Nigeria, where mothers support their daughters or daughter-in-laws after childbirth, is not limited to Nigerian families; it’s also prevalent in many Black American households. While the journey of bringing new life into the world is awe-inspiring, it can also be a challenging one, particularly for Black mothers. The early stages of motherhood are often a whirlwind of emotions, responsibilities, and changes that can sometimes lead to postpartum depression. This condition affects about 1 in every 10 women who give birth, including well-known figures like Cardi B and Ayesha Curry.

Postpartum depression is more than just the “baby blues”; it’s a serious mental health condition that can hinder a mother’s ability to care for herself and her child. Symptoms include persistent sadness, loss of interest in activities, changes in appetite and sleep patterns, and overwhelming fatigue. It requires attention, understanding, and support to overcome, and community plays a vital role in providing that support.

Kimberly Jolasun, a Ghanaian-American mother, created Villie as a digital village for new parents. Her aim was to create a space that addresses common challenges faced by mothers, including postpartum depression. Villie also provides tips and guidance to friends and family on how to support expectant and new parents.

Jolasun herself experienced postpartum depression and knows the significance of having family present during the early stages of motherhood. She emphasizes the role her mother-in-law played in her recovery, highlighting the importance of a strong support system and cultural understanding in overcoming postpartum depression.

Dr. Andrea Braden, an OB-GYN, points out that historically, new parents have not always been isolated, with many cultures having established processes for support. She emphasizes the importance of families and their ability to help new mothers dealing with postpartum depression, particularly when there is a strong pre-existing relationship.

For new Black mothers battling postpartum depression, the support and love of their families are lifelines that help them through challenging times. Families provide a crucial link to the broader family network, reducing feelings of isolation and offering much-needed respite for self-care.

For those without family support, there are alternatives. A postpartum doula or a baby nurse can recreate the sense of community and support. Dr. Braden also suggests the normalization of medically prescribed antidepressants if needed.

Shamic healer and reiki master Denise Damijo, who had her first two children as a teenager without family support, underscores the importance of building a community where blood relations are not necessary. Support can come from anyone who fills that need and desire, whether they were met along the way or are chosen to be part of the support system.

The transformative effects of family and community support extend beyond combating postpartum depression. They empower new Black mothers to embrace their roles with confidence, love, and resilience, fostering a sense of connection and belonging during a significant life transition.

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