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Rate of Depression Diagnoses Remain Low Despite Increase of Suicidal Thoughts of Black Pregnant Women

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The rate of depression diagnoses is low amongst Black pregnant women despite increased thoughts of suicide, according to a study.

Newly published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, the study, titled “Trends in antenatal depression and suicidal ideation diagnoses among commercially insured childbearing individuals in the United States, 2008-2018,” was conducted by research schools like the University of Michigan and Indiana University. 

Looking at the information of more than 536,600 U.S. women who had an insurance plan one year before giving birth between 2008 to 2018, the authors found that the rate of Black women who had suicidal thoughts and received “a diagnosis of suicidal ideation” a year before childbirth increased by 700%. 

As for depression, the study found that, although the rate of suicidal thoughts increased by 700% percent, the rate of Black women diagnosed with depression increased by only 66%. 

“These findings suggest that care for many Black women with antenatal depression – depression that occurs during pregnancy – may be delayed until the condition escalates into a life-threatening emergency,” said the study’s main author and a professor of social work at the University of Illinois, Karen M. Tabb Dina, in a statement

“Early diagnosis of depression in pregnant women is a critical, necessary step in the mental health-treatment pathway that enables patients to access medication and/or psychotherapy. Now that we have these data on diagnoses, we can start to understand other aspects of that pathway.”

The study comes after multiple reports have found that, although depression rates amongst Black women, in general, are on the rise, the rate of official medical diagnoses of the issue are still remaining low. 

According to an article by mental health magazine Psych Central, looking at information from the Black Women’s Health Imperative, more Black women said that they had feelings of sadness when compared to white women; while 2.9% of white women said that they felt sad, 3.9% of Black women reported the same. 

Black women also reported higher rates of hopelessness and worthlessness at rates. While 1.9% of white women said they felt hopeless, 2.4% of Black women reported the same feelings. As for worthlessness, there was a smaller gap with 1.8% of Black women and 1.6% of white women saying they felt worthless.

Nearly 10% of Black women also report feeling as if they need to put in effort to get through daily activities compared to six percent of white women who said the same, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health OMH.

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