In Asian culture, the traditional belief is that all women are supposed to bear children. And that trying to conceive, pregnancy, childbirth and childbirth are just natural steps that a woman must go through. To this day, this prejudice is still very real among modern Asian families.
To start, there is the pressure to have children in the first place. Then, there is also the assumption that women should not feel anxious or afraid of any aspect of pregnancy or childbirth. For example, when I was worried about pain in childbirth, my mom told me, “Every woman goes through that. It’s no big deal.” Keep in mind, this came from a woman whose generation had never had an epidural—most had given birth vaginally without an anesthetic.
After giving birth, the postpartum period can also be difficult. For example, among my friends where both partners are Asian, it is very rare to see male partners providing primary care for children after birth. It’s against the ‘hidden belief’ that everyone follows but doesn’t talk about – raising children and housework is a woman’s business (regardless of what job or education she had before pregnancy) and when men take care of children it’s an extra ‘help’ being done as a service .
Unfortunately, these cultural biases have a negative real-life impact on 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 approx 9 times more likely to report thoughts of suicide directly during the postpartum period. Despite this statistic, we also know that there remains a significant gap in culturally competent mental health resources and support for Asian mothers.
4 Mental Health Tips for AAPI Moms
While we can’t completely eradicate these centuries-old cultural biases overnight, we can can Be aware of it. Furthermore, we can leverage this awareness to make more informed decisions for the sake of our health. Here are some tips based on my personal experience that may help.
1. Learn about the mother’s mental health
It’s a simple fact that hormonal and lifestyle changes throughout pregnancy and the postpartum period can be difficult to manage. This is not something to be ashamed of.
It’s easy to feel helpless, overwhelmed, and even guilty, especially in the postpartum period, for not doing “the best” for your baby. Most of the time, you may not feel like yourself because your lifestyle has changed so dramatically. It’s important to remember that you’re a new mom, and it’s only natural to feel like you’re on an emotional rollercoaster that never ends.
To help, my recommendation is that you learn all you can about a mother’s mental health. It may sound like reading on the signs of conditions like Postpartum anxiety and postpartum depressionask your partner Help you spot those signsand work to identify your “trigger” areas and greatest fears, and proactively find ways to address those concerns throughout the perinatal period, whether that be through individual therapy, group therapy, medication, mindfulness and meditation techniques or a combination thereof.
2. Be aware of your own cultural biases and norms
Like any culture, there are biases and norms within the AAPI community 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 traditionally, there has been very little understanding of the difference between daily psychiatric care and the need for psychotherapy. The lasting effect of this bias has created a subtle feeling that may make Asians feel that mental health support is something they don’t want to be associated with.
Other cultural biases that may influence ideas about motherhood include the traditional image in Asia that a mother should be caring, devoted, soft, gentle, and never aggressive. For me, this bias caused inner conflict and stress because I didn’t feel I could be a successful mother while also being a successful business executive. Mira.
By making ourselves aware of these biases, we can identify unhelpful thought patterns and aim for more rational decisions. Working with a therapist or participating in a support group can help here, too, because identifying these thought patterns can be difficult to do on your own.
3. Demystify your fertility
Previous generations in Asia didn’t know much about fertility or conception. This is partly because their journeys were physically easier, as they usually gave birth at a much younger age than today’s AAPI moms.
However, for many of us now, fertility can seem like a mystery. To relieve some of the stress associated with pregnancy, I used Mira to track my hormones while I was trying to conceive. With Mira’s support, I no longer needed to Google every new show I had, which was a huge relief. That knowledge was powerful.
For AAPI couples looking to conceive, I recommend gathering resources to understand your fertility, hormones, and reproductive health. This may look like the first tab of a file Pre-pregnancy examination with your OB-GYN, who can refer you to a fertility specialist if you have more questions or would like to continue testing. Reaching out to friends to ask about their fertility journeys can also be helpful — and put an end to Stigma around the use of assisted reproductive technology (ART) or other tools for carrying.
4. Find supportive communities online and offline
The other thing that Mira’s community has helped me with is that I’ve been able to see what other women are going through. Through our users, you get to see their stories, emotions, and experiences. This helped broaden my understanding of the definition of “mother,” and made me focus less on many of the negative aspects of pregnancy and motherhood that I dreaded.
This is why I will always recommend joining a community of other women who are going through what you are going through. Whether it’s virtual or in person, they can provide you with much-needed support and perspective on your journey as a soon-to-be or new mom — and help you feel less alone.