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Patient Education Gaps Leave Women Ill-Informed About Postpartum Depression

Postpartum women want better patient education regarding postpartum depression, according to a recent survey. The toll was even higher among people of color.

A lack of proper patient education is leaving many women in the dark about postpartum depression.

According to a recent survey, 70 percent of postpartum women reported feeling underinformed about mental health issues following childbirth, wishing they had received more patient education before giving birth.

These findings come as the healthcare system tackles the dual crisis of maternal mortality and mental health. The escalating maternal mortality rate in the US is driven not just by pregnancy and childbirth complications but significantly by suicide—now the second leading cause of death.

Mental health concerns can arise unexpectedly within the first year following childbirth, regardless of one's prior mental health history. It’s estimated that as many as one in eight birthing people experience symptoms of postpartum depression.

MetroPlusHealth's survey, which sampled over 1,000 individuals across NYC and nationwide, shined a new light on motherhood and postpartum mental health.

While the findings highlighted that many birthing individuals already expressed a strong need for more knowledge about the mental health challenges of childbirth, this sentiment for more patient education was notably more pronounced within Hispanic and Black communities.

In the survey, it was reported that 81 percent of Black women and 76 percent of Hispanic women shared a wish to have been better educated about postpartum depression before becoming mothers.

Racial disparities were also observed in patient expectations of postpartum care. Half of the Black and Hispanic women surveyed believed they required more postpartum care than anticipated, a sentiment shared by only 28 percent of white women.

This disparity in patient expectations raises the concern that different racial groups may not be equally aware of the available maternal care options at various stages of pregnancy.

Further, separate studies have highlighted disparities across the maternal healthcare continuum. While 70 percent of white women attend their first prenatal appointment at eight weeks, only 59 percent of Black women achieve the same.

This results in delayed access to other essential maternal care services, which can negatively impact the continuum of prenatal care.

The survey also uncovered a significant public knowledge gap regarding racial disparities in prenatal, labor, delivery, and postpartum care. Half of the respondents erroneously believed that Black and White individuals have identical maternal mortality rates, a stark contrast to the reality.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Black patients are, in fact, three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white patients. This disparity is even more pronounced in New York City, where the rate is nine times higher for Black patients.

Experts have said that the first step to addressing Black maternal mortality disparities is to drive strong provider education and cultural reform.  The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) advocates for stronger provider education about healthcare disparities and the health equity issues surrounding maternal healthcare. This should outline a path toward what the AAFP termed birth equity, meaning every pregnant patient has an equal opportunity to have a healthy birth

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