Reimagining Perinatal Mental Health: An Expansive Vision For Structural Change

Health Aff (Millwood). 2021 Oct;40(10):1592-1596. doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.2021.00805.


Diagnoses of depression, anxiety, or other mental illness capture just one aspect of the psychosocial elements of the perinatal period. Perinatal loss; trauma; unstable, unsafe, or inhumane work environments; structural racism and gendered oppression in health care and society; and the lack of a social safety net threaten the overall well-being of birthing people, their families, and communities. Developing relevant policies for perinatal mental health thus requires attending to the intersecting effects of racism, poverty, lack of child care, inadequate postpartum support, and other structural violence on health. To fully understand and address this issue, we use a human rights framework to articulate how and why policy makers must take progressive action toward this goal. This commentary, written by an interdisciplinary and intergenerational team, employs personal and professional expertise to disrupt underlying assumptions about psychosocial aspects of the perinatal experience and reimagines a new way forward to facilitate well-being in the perinatal period.

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety
  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mental Health*
  • Parturition
  • Pregnancy
  • Racism*