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How Is Postpartum Depression Treated? An Integrative Approach to Women’s Mental Health

After bouts of morning sickness, constant fatigue, swelling feet, and heartburn, many women count down the days until their pending due date. While it can be incredibly exciting and surreal to finally hold your baby, approximately 12 to 20 percent of new mothers experience postpartum depression after delivery.


If you have PPD, your symptoms might start to show right after birth, or it may take a couple of weeks or months for them to begin. You may first notice that you don’t feel quite yourself, with lasting feelings of sadness, apathy, and hopelessness. It’s likely you’ll have little motivation to get through the day and lose interest in activities you use to enjoy. You may also notice you have greater difficultly concentrating on tasks, remembering important details, or making important decisions.


You may be more irritable and have difficulties controlling your emotions, with seemingly small nuisances sending you over the edge. Your mood may fluctuate greatly, causing you to feel angry and agitated one moment and sad or deflated the next. You may even have thoughts of harming yourself or your baby.


Postpartum depression is a very serious condition that can impact your quality of life and make it difficult to take care of yourself and your baby. Many women with postpartum depression feel guilty or ashamed about their feelings and may become withdrawn from their loved ones and disconnected from their babies.


If you’re feeling this way and don’t know where to turn, we want you to know that it’s not your fault. There are many causes of postpartum depression, and there’s nothing you could have done to prevent this from happening. Fortunately, in recent years, more people are recognizing the severity of PPD and taking precautions to help new mothers get the help they need. It may feel like you’re living in a black hole right now, but we are here to help you find your way out.


Does this sound like you? Learn about our women’s teletherapy services.


How Do You Know If You Have Postpartum Depression?

When left untreated, postpartum depression can get worse and have long-term effects on both you and your baby. Catching and treating PPD as early as possible can help speed up recovery, and meeting with a therapist can give you a safe place to process and talk about your emotions.


As many as 80% of new mothers experience the “baby blues,” so it can be difficult for new moms to determine if they might have PPD. It’s normal and common for women to experience some moodiness and sadness right after giving birth. This is often caused by hormonal changes and lasts for about two weeks.


If these depression-like symptoms become more severe or last for longer than two weeks, it’s likely you have a postpartum mood disorder. A PPD screening test can also help determine if you have symptoms of postpartum depression. Many women receive these tests from their hospital or OBGYN after delivering their baby and during their postpartum checkup.


The Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale is the most common screening test. This questionnaire includes a list of 10 short statements including things like “I have felt sad or miserable” and “I have been anxious or worried for no good reason.” Women are instructed to rate on a scale of one to four how they have felt in the last seven days, with options like “no, never” and “yes, most of the time.” There are other screens sometimes used by doctors, including the 2-Question Patient Health Questionnaire and the 9-Question Patient Health Questionnaire.


If you rate high on any of these tests, it is recommended to seek treatment from a qualified mental health professional. From here, the therapist or psychiatrist will ask you more about how you have been feeling. If your symptoms match, they will diagnose you with postpartum depression. After digging deeper into your situation, they may alternatively diagnose you with another postpartum mood disorder, such as postpartum anxiety, postpartum PTSD, postpartum OCD, or postpartum psychosis.

How Do Therapists Treat Postpartum Depression?

Postpartum depression treatment is similar to treatment for other types of depression disorders, such as major depressive disorder. Your psychiatrist will likely start with postpartum therapy, such as interpersonal psychotherapy, to help you process feelings of shame, isolation, and disappointment. Your therapist may also use cognitive behavioral therapy techniques to help identify any unhelpful thinking and behavioral patterns and help equip you with tools to change negative thought patterns and develop healthier coping methods.


Medication for Postpartum Depression


Your psychiatrist may also recommend you take an antidepressant in addition to talk therapy if your symptoms are severe. These medications can help address many of the physical symptoms of PPD, such as poor appetite or sleeping problems. They can also boost your mood, improve concentration, and control stress and anxiety.


Choosing to use medication to treat symptoms of depression can be a difficult decision. Many women have reservations about taking antidepressants, and a stigma surrounding mental health can make new mothers feel ashamed, weak, or ill if they use medication to help relieve their symptoms.


If you’re uncomfortable with taking antidepressants, it’s important to discuss this with your psychiatrist. It can take up to six to eight weeks for the medication to kick in, and it’s possible to experience side effects. Women who are breastfeeding should also discuss taking medication with their doctor as small amounts of the antidepressant can show up in breastmilk.


Hormone therapy is still being researched for its effectiveness in treating PPD and is rarely used. Brexanolone is currently the only FDA-approved treatment for severe postpartum depression that works by administering hormones that drop after birth. Birth control is not recognized as a treatment for PPD and can potentially worsen symptoms. You should let your doctor know if you are diagnosed with PPD and explore different options for contraceptives.


Holistic Treatments for Postpartum Depression


At Thriving Lane, we follow an integrative approach for treating postpartum depression, which includes standard treatments like psychotherapy and medication in addition to other holistic remedies. PPD is a complicated mental health condition affected by a combination of psychological and physical factors.


We believe that the key to achieving long-term healing is by addressing both your mind and body. This can include looking at things like exercise, diet, and mindfulness exercises to help you heal your body as a whole. Additionally, having adequate support can be a huge help for anyone experiencing a mental health disorder. Taking care of a baby can be exhausting. And it can be difficult to give your body what it needs to heal after going through delivery while meeting the needs of another human being.


We know that this period of transition can be incredibly difficult and we’re here to give you the resources you need to thrive in your new role. Being a new mom is a big responsibility and you’re not weak for needing help. Therapy requires time, and you may feel hardly have a second to spare. We offer online counseling for women so you can meet with us without ever leaving home.


Ready to start exploring treatment options for PPD? Make an appointment today.

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