What treatments are available for postpartum depression?

Diana Meeks
Diana Meeks on behalf of Sigma Nursing
Family Practitioner

The treatment options for postpartum depression are counseling, antidepressant medications and hormone therapy.

  • Counseling is focused on helping the woman to find better ways to cope with her feelings and to set goals. Women with milder depression may respond to counseling alone.
  • Antidepressant medications are an effective treatment for postpartum depression.
  • Hormone therapy, specifically estrogen replacement may help counteract the rapid drop in estrogen that accompanies childbirth, and may ease the signs and symptoms of postpartum depression.

In addition, a healthy lifestyle including a nutritious diet, daily exercise, good sleep patterns and accepting help and support from family and friends are important to support the treatment plan. With effective treatment, postpartum depression usually goes away within a few months. Continuing treatment after the woman begins to feel better is important. Stopping treatment too early may lead to a relapse.

If you think you have postpartum depression, contact your healthcare provider. If you are feeling overwhelmed, sad, out-of-control or feel unable to care for or to love your baby you need to seek treatment. Sometimes it is a family member or friend who recognizes the symptoms of post-partum depression. Let them call your healthcare provider for you and accompany you to see the doctor.

Dr. Robert Farra, PhD
Psychiatrist (Therapist)

There are psychologists who specialize in the treatment of postpartum depression. Cognitive behavioral therapy has been widely researched and has been shown to be very effective in the resolution of postpartum depression. Cognitive behavioral therapy is based on the idea that our thoughts cause our feelings and our behavior, not external things, like people, situations and events. The benefit of this type of therapy is that it puts the power to improve things in the hands of patient. We can change the way we think to feel and act better even if the people or situations do not change.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

Counseling is the first line of defense to help get you back on track, and medications might be carefully added as well. You're especially at risk if you've suffered from any form of depression any time previously, have a family history of depression, or have recently undergone a major life change (other than the pregnancy). Some women who know they're at risk often ask their doctors for a prophylactic antidepressant before symptoms set in.

Dr. Heather Wittenberg, PhD
Psychology Specialist

For most women, a combination of counseling and short-term antidepressant medication makes all the difference in treating postpartum depression (PPD). If you don’t want to try medications, ask your therapist about starting with counseling first to see if that is enough; often, it is. Also make sure to ask about the importance of getting adequate sleep, exercise and good nutrition. Many studies show that these factors can help a lot! New moms can ask their OBGYN, family physician, clergy or friends for a referral to a psychotherapist who can help moms suffering from PPD.

New moms may be ashamed of feeling unloving about the baby, feeling sad, overwhelmed and irritable, having trouble with sleep and appetite, and having feelings of worthlessness or guilt, and often don’t ask for help. They are told to “get a grip,” to “appreciate your beautiful family,” or that “in my day, we didn’t have time to be depressed.” All these reactions make the postpartum depression (PPD) sufferer feel worse, and less likely to seek help. But it’s important to seek help. The whole family suffers from PPD. So, treating mom for PPD helps mom, the baby, and the whole family as well.

Ms. Marcia Starkman
Advanced Practice Nursing Specialist

It helps to know you are not alone. That means to find support for yourself, either with other women who are going through or have gone through the same thing. A support group can be invaluable. See your health care provider and get yourself checked out physically. Medication may be suggested. Don't dismiss the idea right away. For some women with PPD, it is a true life saver and needing it nothing to be ashamed of. It doesn't mean you're weak or damaged or will become an addict.

Here's where to remember it's not your fault! It's your biology, your genetics, your hormones, your pre-pregnancy psychological make-up, your personality, etc., etc., etc. All things that are out of your control. But all things that can be handled. All you can control are your responses and reactions. If you're not responding and reacting to these factors and new stresses in a way that's helpful for you, get professional help and support from others to help you through this difficult time.

Postpartum depression is very common and very treatable. Call your doctor as soon as you or a significant other suspects that postpartum depression is a problem. You heard right; if you even think a problem exists, then sharing the concerns with a professional is wise. Playing the martyr will only exacerbate the problem, preventing you from experiencing the joys of motherhood and preventing your baby from the benefits of having an engaged, happy mom.

YOU: Having a Baby: The Owner's Manual to a Happy and Healthy Pregnancy

More About this Book

YOU: Having a Baby: The Owner's Manual to a Happy and Healthy Pregnancy

Can I get a cavity filled while pregnant? Will avoiding spicy foods make my kid a picky eater? Can I really increase my baby's IQ while she's in utero? Whether you're pregnant for the first time, are trying to start your family, or already have enough children to start your own basketball team, you're bound to have questions about what it means to be pregnant -- and how you can increase your odds of having a healthy and happy pregnancy. But no matter how much you've read, watched, studied, or talked about this amazing biological journey, you have never read anything like this. In this groundbreaking book, Dr. Michael Roizen and Dr. Mehmet Oz act as mythbusters for the hundreds of questions surrounding pregnancy in the same scientific, informative, and entertaining ways that have made them America's Doctors. In these pages, you'll learn everything you need to know about the miracles of fetal development, your health throughout the pregnancy, and providing the best possible environment for your growing child. Pregnancy is a complicated balancing act, but it doesn't have to be frightening. The doctors will help you de-stress as they describe accurately and rationally what happens during a thrilling nine months of life. While every pregnant body is different, odds are you'll experience some of the cravings, crying, and discomfort that almost all women go through. Your best tactic? Learn why these things are happening -- and what you should do about them. YOU: Having a Baby will teach you everything you need to know about what to eat (should I be eating for two?), how much to exercise, and what guilty pleasures will actually make pregnancy easier on you (and the loved ones who get to be around you for the whole thing). Each phase of pregnancy has different challenges, but the right information will prepare you for what's ahead. The interactive week-by-week calendar inside provides an even more detailed guideline for how and what you should feel through every step of the process. Exciting, cutting-edge scientific research in the fi eld of epigenetics has changed the way the medical profession looks at pregnancy, and now it can change your perspective, too. Epigenetics explores what makes us develop in certain ways -- why some people thrive at math while others are prone to chronic diseases. It turns out that there are easy things you can do that will not just help your baby's development in utero but will actually improve his or her chances of living a healthy, fulfi lling adult life. Filled with recipes for nutritious, satisfying snacks and meals even Pop can cook (yes, he can!), safe exercises for staying fit, and tons of YOU tips that will help you stay comfortable, YOU: Having a Baby is the ultimate guidebook for what to do from the moment of conception to the weeks after your child has arrived home. From morning sickness and food cravings to choosing a doctor and changing a diaper, YOU: Having a Baby will give you the real scoop about what's in store for you during this amazing time in your life.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.