California’s Maternal Mental Health Crisis

Perinatal and anxiety disorders are detrimental to a woman’s maternal health. In California, approximately 1 in 5 women will be affected by perinatal and anxiety disorders during or after pregnancy. This statistic is higher than the national average where 1 in 7 women are affected. Women who live in low socioeconomic areas, women who are African American or Hispanic, and women who are insured by Medical are more likely to experience maternal mental health disorders.

In 2015, 67,600 Californian women were affected by prenatal depression, 70,500 Californian women were affected by postpartum depression, and 98,500 Californian women were affected by perinatal depression.”

While the numbers of those affected by maternal mental health disorders are already significant, the prevalence only increases among women living in low socioeconomic areas. This is especially true for the State of California given the fact that it has the highest poverty rate in America. In 2012-2013, 44% of pregnant women in California were living with income at or below the federal poverty guideline (FPG). While 28.4% of women living at or below the FPG experienced depressive symptoms, only 11.8% of women with income exceeding 300% of FPG experienced depressive symptoms.

Maternal mental illnesses do not only affect mothers. It also negatively impacts their children. Research shows a strong correlation between postpartum depression and early termination of breastfeeding which is an issue that sometimes leads to childhood obesity, malnutrition, and diarrheal diseases. Not only do these diseases hinder the child’s cognitive and emotional development, but it also increases the chance that a mother would have to take her child to the emergency room.


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