The XX Factor

Not Just the Pregnancy Blues: Overcoming the Hispanic Cultural Stigma Against Prenatal Depression

Unhappy pregnant woman.

Stories of prenatal depression. 

Photo by Tatiana Gladskikh/iStockphoto.

As part of Jessica Grose’s series on prenatal depression, we asked readers to share their stories about depression during pregnancy. The second entry comes from a mother of two whose third pregnancy was complicated by depression and cultural stigma. 

Name: D. Conway

I am a mother of three beautiful daughters. My oldest will be 9 next month, my second daughter is 6, and my baby just turned 10 months. With my first two pregnancies I did not experience anything negative and felt like I did well during and after the pregnancy. The third pregnancy was very, very different. I went from getting agitated easily to feeling huge amounts of rage in a matter of seconds. After that I would cry and cry. I seriously wanted to claw out of my skin because I really did think I felt my skin itch. I remember how I couldn’t stand myself and constantly had to remind myself that there is an innocent human being inside me, so I had to contain my deep darker thoughts and keep myself together. I was going to school and working full-time but I wasn’t counting down the months I had left of school or the hours in a workday, I was counting down the days left until I gave birth. I knew it was the pregnancy that was making me feel and act this way.

I remember I made so many hysterical calls to my husband yelling and crying on the phone demanding he be home with me (when the guy was already driving home). After one call in particular he walked into the bathroom while I was sitting in a bath just crying my eyes out. He looked at me and said, “There is something seriously wrong with you. This can’t be normal.” I looked at him and told him that yes, I needed his help to step in as much as possible and not leave me alone or with the other two children, until further notice. If he couldn’t commit to that, he should let me know because I would go to the doctor and get hospitalized. I confessed to him I did not feel it was in the girls’ best interest or in the unborn baby’s best interest for me to be left alone because I felt too unstable. Secretly I knew in the second month that there was something wrong and I wasn’t going to overcome it on my own.

The second problem that shut the door to my seeking help is my culture. I am Hispanic and if I were to tell my relatives what I was feeling I would be told I was being ridiculous and to knock it off, that I wanted children so it’s no else’s fault but my own, and I should deal with it without any whining. Depression in general isn’t acknowledged as a condition in our culture, let alone the baby blues. I am very thankful to my husband because he kept his word and stuck by me closer than usual. My youngest was born a week early and is a healthy, happy little girl who has two overprotective and loving sisters.

Previously in this series:

Entry #1: Watching My Wife Spiral into Prenatal Depression