Treating Postpartum Depression
Be in touch with your feelings as you adjust to your new baby.
Postpartum (meaning “after birth”) depression is a mood disorder. Women with postpartum depression may feel extremely anxious, sad or exhausted. These physical and emotional feelings can make it hard for you to take care of yourself and your family, even the new baby.
Some common signs include withdrawing from friends and family, having trouble bonding with your baby, having self-doubts about your ability to care for your child, or anger and rage. Some women cry and worry for no reason, or even have thoughts of harming the baby or themselves.
Talk to your doctor immediately if you have any of these symptoms or you’re having feelings of exhaustion or sadness you can’t explain. There is a path out of the darkness. A doctor can diagnose a new mother’s depression and start treatment right away.
Talk therapy with a psychologist, social worker or counselor has been shown to help. One-on-one therapy can teach you how to change your negative thoughts and behaviors. It can help you improve your relationships and get your life as a new mom back on track and provide new coping skills.
Medication also can help lift the darkness of depression. During pregnancy and childbirth, your hormones and chemicals in your brain are changing. This can affect your moods and actions. Your doctor can discuss safe and effective medicines to help you cope with everyday tasks and not feel so overwhelmed and alone.
You also might benefit from regular aerobic activity, with your doctor’s okay. Many gyms and recreation centers now provide classes particularly geared to new moms. Exercise can boost your mood and help you sleep better. Your doctor may also recommend alternative or complementary treatments.
Therapy and medication can be used alone or together to treat postpartum depression.
Don’t let the sadness go untreated. Get help right away so you can be at your best for yourself and your family.
If you have thoughts of hurting yourself or your baby, call your health care professional, 911 or a suicide hotline such as 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255). Or have someone drive you to your nearest emergency department.
By Ginny Greene, Contributing Editor
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Postpartum depression. FAQ091. Accessed: July 15, 2016.
American Psychological Association. Postpartum depression: What is postpartum depression & anxiety? Accessed: July 15, 2016.
National Institute of Mental Health. What is postpartum depression? Accessed: July 15, 2016.
UpToDate. Postpartum blues and unipolar depression: Prevention and treatment. Accessed: July 15, 2016.
Last Updated: July 15, 2016