In Asian culture, the traditional belief is that all women should have children. And that trying to conceive, pregnancy, giving birth and postpartum are normal steps women have to go through. Even today, this prejudice still rings true among modern Asian families.
First of all, there is pressure to have children. Then there’s also the assumption that women shouldn’t worry or fear any aspect of getting pregnant or giving birth. For example, when I was worried about pain at birth, my mother told me, “Every woman goes through that. Not a big deal.” Keep in mind this was from a woman whose generation had never had epidural – most of them had a vaginal delivery without anesthesia.
In addition to childbirth, the postpartum period can also be challenging. For example, among my friends, where both partners are Asian, it is very rare for male partners to provide major baby care postpartum. It goes against the ‘hidden belief’ that everyone follows, but is not spoken about: raising children and running the house are the woman’s job (regardless of what job or education she had prior to pregnancy) and as men for taking care of children is considered an extra. “help” that is done as a favor.
Unfortunately, these cultural biases negatively impact the mental health of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) mothers. This is supported by research showing that compared to white women, Asian women are nearly 9 times more likely to report suicidal thoughts in the immediate postpartum period. Despite this statistic, we also know that there is still a huge gap in culturally competent mental health resources and support for Asian mothers.
Related: It’s time to address the lack of maternal mental health resources for AAPI moms
4 Mental Health Tips for AAPI Moms
While we can’t completely eliminate these age-old cultural biases overnight, we will can be aware. In addition, we can use this awareness to make more informed decisions for our health. Here are a few tips based on my personal experience that may help.
1. Learn more about maternal mental health
It’s a simple fact that hormone and lifestyle changes during pregnancy and the postpartum period can be difficult to manage. This is not something to be ashamed of.
Especially in the postpartum period, it’s easy to feel helpless, overwhelmed, and even guilty for not doing the very best for your child. Most of the time, you may not even feel like yourself because your lifestyle has changed so drastically. It’s important to remember that you’re a new mom, and it’s actually normal to feel like you’re on an endless emotional rollercoaster.
To help, my recommendation is to learn all you can about maternal mental health. That might be like reading the signs of conditions like postpartum anxiety and postpartum depression, asking your partner to help you recognize those signs, working on identifying your “trigger” areas and biggest fears, and finding proactive ways to address those fears everywhere. the perinatal period, whether through one-on-one therapy, group therapy, medication, mindfulness and meditation techniques or a combination.
2. Be aware of your own cultural biases and norms
Like any culture, within the AAPI community there are prejudices and norms that shape the way we view situations and ourselves.
When it comes to pregnancy and childbirth, the traditional view in the AAPI community is that having a “mental illness” (such as postpartum depression or anxiety) is scary. This is because there has traditionally been little understanding of the difference between daily psychological care versus psychiatric treatment. The lasting impact of this bias has created a hidden sense that can cause Asians to feel that mental health support is something they don’t want to be associated with.
Related: More than half of new moms aren’t getting the mental health support they need
Other cultural biases that can influence thoughts about motherhood include the traditional image in Asia that a mother should be caring, devoted, gentle, and never aggressive. For me, this bias caused internal strife and stress because I didn’t feel like I could be a successful mom while also being a successful CEO at Mira.
By simply becoming aware of these biases, we can discover unhelpful thought patterns and strive for more rational decisions. Working with a therapist or joining a support group can also help here, as identifying those thought patterns on your own can be difficult.
3. Demystify your fertility
Previous generations in Asia did not know much about fertility or pregnancy. This is partly because their travels are physically easier, having typically given birth at a much younger age compared to AAPI mothers today.
However, for many of us, fertility can feel like a mystery right now. To relieve some of my own stress related to getting pregnant, I used Mira to monitor my hormones while trying to conceive. With Mira’s support, I no longer had to Google every new symptom I experienced, which was so comforting. That knowledge was powerful.
Related: The 7 Most Misunderstood Fertility Myths, Explained
For AAPI couples looking to conceive, I recommend gathering resources to understand your fertility, hormones, and reproductive health. That might be like scheduling a preconception check with your obstetrician, who can refer you to a fertility specialist if you have more questions or want testing. Reaching out to friends to ask about their fertility journeys can also be enlightening — and end the stigma surrounding using assisted reproductive technology (ART) or other assistive devices to conceive.
4. Find supportive communities online and offline
Another thing that the Mira community helped me with was getting to see what other women go through. Through our users I got to see their stories, emotions and experiences. This helped broaden my understanding of the definition of a “mom,” and it made me less focused on many of the downsides of pregnancy and motherhood that I feared.
That’s why I will always recommend joining a community of other women who are going through what you are going through. Whether virtual or in-person, they can provide you with much-needed support and perspective on your journey as an expectant or new mother, and help you feel less alone.
Related: Bookmark These Virtual Support Groups on Your TTC Journey