As indicated by a 2018 Los Angeles Mommies & Babies study, approximately 120,000 annual births, 23.1% of LA County’s new parents grapple with postpartum depression and 27.6% experience postpartum anxiety.
Notably, these figures soar to 33% and 30.5%, respectively, among Black birthing individuals, missing the upwards of 50% of individuals who are never identified due to stigma and systemic barriers to care. MMHN’s vision is that every birthing person and family in Los Angeles County has access to comprehensive, specialized support from clinicians and community-based providers trained in culturally-responsive perinatal mental health care.
However, a recent report made headlines after identifying just 111 maternal mental health providers in Los Angeles County, falling drastically short of the recommended 495 professionals required for adequate coverage. While Maternal Mental Health NOW agrees that LA County is extremely under-resourced when it comes to conventional forms of perinatal mental health care, we contend that the report employs an overly-narrow definition of maternal mental health providers, solely considering those with a clinical degree and Perinatal Mental Health Certification (PMH-C) from Postpartum Support International. This oversight fails to account for the many mental health clinicians and affiliated professionals who either cannot afford the high costs of the certification training and exam or are engaged in more holistic intervention approaches, including physical health, nutrition, exercise, financial health, peer support, etc.
Put simply, traditional therapy is not an intervention that is easily accessible amongst many birthing people. Factors such as high costs (as many as half of the 111 providers are private pay, meaning they do not accept insurance), lack of access, cultural stigma, cultural incongruence, and historical harm and oppression places it out of reach for communities most impacted by postpartum depression and anxiety. However, holistic, Black-led resources like Frontline Doulas, Black Mamas Glowing support group, and Therapeutic Play Foundation, whose providers don’t necessarily have the PMH-C credential, meaningfully expand critical, community and culturally-informed care. These providers fill important gaps, and while not reflected in the report’s findings, are integral to a network of providers delivering historically marginalized families navigating pregnancy and postpartum with timely, appropriate supports.
To achieve our collective vision, we must expand the definition of perinatal mental health care to address the birthing person’s physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, and financial health.
Individuals who work with expecting and postpartum persons in LA County can receive a free training on perinatal mental health at wellbeing4la.org.
Birthing people and families looking for community identified and vetted resources for perinatal mental health challenges can find support by:
- Visiting mmhn.streetwyze.com and/or
- Calling 1-888-823-SANA to speak with a peer supporter, who will provide personalized support for navigating systems of care and connection to culturally-responsive resources along the expansive spectrum of perinatal mental health care.