Recurrent Postpartum Depression Screenings are Extremely Important for Minority Moms

Newborns of minority mothers are at a greater risk of developing issues related to postpartum depression, according to a new study by researchers at Florida International University. The risk is due to a higher incidence of preterm labor.

While a previous study had examined a relationship between preterm births and symptoms of postpartum depression, the new FIU study is the very first to look at the relationship between low-income black and Hispanic mothers and the effect it had on their infants.

The Research

Nicole E. Barroso, clinical psychology Ph.D. candidate and lead study author had this to say, “Preterm birth rates are often higher in minority samples and research suggests that it is due to a combination of factors that put them at risk. Caring for a preterm infant is particularly challenging as premature babies have more medical and temperamental problems.”

The study’s results revealed mother of preterm infants and those of lower birth rates reported higher levels of depression symptoms. These mothers also reported higher levels of fear, stress and sadness, while their babies had a hard time self-soothing.

These findings were recently published in the journal Infant Behavior and Development and is co-authored by Dr. Chelsey Hartley and FIU psychology professors Jeremy Petitit and Daniel Bagner.

The study included 102 mothers with babies aged 3-10 months, of which 31 were born before 37 weeks and of low birth weight.

The Results of the Study

To figure out if the mothers were exhibiting the symptoms of postpartum, the scientists used a validated self-reporting questionnaire. Approximately 17 percent of the mothers in the study were just above the clinical criteria cutoff for depression which placed them at a higher risk for developing postpartum depression.

In previous research studies, higher rates of postpartum depression symptoms among underrepresented minority mothers, ranging from 11-12% in Hispanics and African Americans compared to just 7% in Caucasians.

Women who experience postpartum depression can also have to deal with feelings of extreme sadness, thoughts of harming themselves or their child, anxiety and fatigue. According to the American Psychological Association, children who grow up in these environments can become inconsolable, withdrawn, and irritable. Furthermore, these children can also develop depression and a multitude of anxiety issues.

Postpartum depression is one of the most common complications of child birth, it is even more common than preeclampsia and gestational diabetes. At least half of all cases of postpartum depression go undiagnosed. Because African American and Hispanic mothers have a higher risk of preterm births and postpartum depression, researchers feel it is highly imperative these women receive early screenings and treatment.


Postpartum depression is a very common issue that many women will face. However, with early screening, intervention, diagnosis and treatment, it is possible to save lives and lower the risk of this mental health issue for both mother and child. More study is needed in order to determine the best course of action and how to approach postpartum depression, without alienating a new mother and making her feel the sting of the stigma associated with mental illness.


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