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How Postpartum Depression is Treated

A woman with postpartum depression

Pregnancy, birth, and the immediate aftermath of parenting are times of enormous change and upheaval in a person's life. Pregnant and postpartum women can develop depressive symptoms around these events due to hormonal changes, or simply because of stressful life events. Research shows that around 15% of women develop postpartum depression symptoms, and it can be important to be aware of what to look for, and what to do. In this article, we'll take a closer look at postpartum depression, how postpartum depression diagnosed by the diagnostic and statistical manual can affect mental health, and how to treat postpartum depression symptoms.

How Do I Know if I Have Perinatal or Postpartum Depression?

Postpartum depression is a type of depression that is under the umbrella of perinatal depression. Perinatal depression refers to depressive symptoms felt at any point between conception and after birth. Postpartum depression specifically refers to depressive symptoms felt after the birth of the baby. Symptoms of postpartum depression and perinatal depression are the same, just felt at different times. Symptoms of postpartum depression and perinatal depression may include the following:

  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Difficulty eating, loss of appetite
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Severe mood swings
  • Excessive crying

Some of these symptoms of postpartum depression can be a part of "baby blues" which refers to a shorter duration of symptoms. Baby blues goes away within about ten days, while developing PPD means that they last for weeks or months, and are more severe. If suicidal ideation is present, reach out to a crisis lifeline for help.

Postpartum Psychosis: Signs and Symptoms

Postpartum psychosis is a far more severe form of postpartum depression, and can be an extremely dangerous mental illness. Symptoms of postpartum psychosis include:

  • Paranoia
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Insomnia
  • Delusions or hallucinations
  • Mania or rapid speech

If you notice any of these symptoms of postpartum psychosis, it should be considered an emergency situation. Get medical help immediately so you can receive appropriate treatment.

Risk Factors for Being Depressed After the Birth of a Child

Certain people are at an increased risk for developing PPD. Risk factors for postpartum depression include:

  • Other family members have experience postpartum depression
  • Relationship conflict
  • A limited social support group
  • Pregnancy complications or other health problems
  • Single parent or younger than 20 years old
  • Pregnancy ambivalence
  • Chronic depression, bipolar disorder, or other mental health disorders

What Should I Do if I Have Symptoms of Postpartum Depression?

If you notice that your postpartum blues have lasted more than a couple of weeks, you may have postpartum depression. Contact your doctor to be referred to a mental health professional. Your doctor may want to do a physical workup first to check for physical issues. Many women ignore the signs of postpartum depression, but like other types of major depression it is treatable. Untreated postpartum depression can also lead to more severe mental health issues, and bonding problems with your baby.

How is Postpartum Depression Treated?

Your doctor or a mental health professional will use the Edinburgh postnatal depression scale to screen for postpartum depression. This scale asks ten questions about depression, including feelings of guilt, anxiety, or sadness. With postpartum depression diagnosed, treatment for postpartum depression can begin. There are typically three lines of treatment for postpartum depression: talk therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes.

Psychological and Psychosocial Treatments for Postpartum Depression

Talk therapy is the most common treatment for postpartum depression. Typically cognitive behavioral therapy, and sometimes support group options. The length of time and number of sessions can depend on the severity of your postpartum depression.

Your therapist will work with you on decrease symptoms of postpartum depression through offering coping skills for stressful life events, emotional support, and interpersonal therapy techniques. For some severe cases of postnatal depression, healthcare providers may also recommend tricyclic antidepressants, or electroconvulsive therapy.

Medication for Postpartum Depression

In cases of severe postpartum depression or postpartum psychosis, medication can be a part of the treatment plan to restore mental health. Your doctor may prescribe antidepressant medications to help stabilize your mood and balance the chemicals in your brain.

If you are breast feeding, talk to your provider about risks and benefits of an antidepressant, as medications can transfer through breast milk. However, in many cases, antidepressant medications are safe to use even when breastfeeding infants.

Lifestyle Remedies to Implement Alongside Treatment

Alongside talk therapy to treat symptoms of postpartum depression, a therapist will often recommend certain lifestyle habits to improve mental health outcomes. When you develop postpartum depression there are often other challenges that are contributing to baby blues such as the exhaustion of giving birth, a lack of emotional support, and a lack of self care.

Some habits that may be recommended to treat postpartum depression include:

  • Light therapy to increase levels of vitamin D to pre pregnancy levels
  • Getting regular moderate level physical activity as your body allows
  • Eating a balanced diet of nutritionally dense foods
  • Sleeping when the baby sleeps
  • Reaching out to your support group for help, including taking the baby for small breaks to allow for improved mental health

Coping and Support

For some new mothers experiencing postpartum depression, support groups can be helpful. Meeting with other mothers with postpartum depression can normalize their feelings, and allow them to share stories of postpartum anxiety, symptoms of postpartum depression or baby blues, as well as positive ways they cope with them. A support group can be a lifeline for many women, especially those who may not have other support systems.

For those who have friends and family members nearby, a therapist may encourage them to lean on support from these loved ones as well. Often mothers may feel like they have to handle everything on their own, but a major postpartum depression affect is energy, and depressive symptoms can deplete reserves. A therapist can help a new mom understand that a part of treating postpartum depression is to allow others to help them.

Treating Postpartum Depression in Austin, TX

Postpartum depression or baby blues can be a real challenge. Postpartum women may have mood swings, negative thoughts, and other symptoms that affect their mental health. But there is help available for postnatal depression.

At Williamsburg Therapy Group our team of doctoral-level psychotherapists have experience working with all types of major depression, including postpartum depression.

Give us a call today and our patient coordinator will help you find the right postpartum mental health provider in Austin to treat depression during or after pregnancy, or postpartum anxiety. Baby blues or postpartum depression don't have to overwhelm your life, your therapist can offer a depression screening, help you manage symptoms, find local resources, and offer support as you adjust to antidepressant medicines.


Book a Therapy Session in Austin Today

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