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David Baxter

Mar 26, 2004
Treatments for Postpartum Depression
By Laura Roche, Mental Health Matters
June 15, 2015

Postpartum Depression can be a difficult, frightening and lonely experience but with the right treatment, most women can make a full recovery. It is extremely important to seek treatment as the condition is unlikely to improve on its own and can often get worse. It can also affect your relationship with your baby and the care you are able to provide for your child.
There are many different types of treatment available such as medications, therapy and self-help measures including practical support and advice. The right treatment is dependent on the level or severity of your symptoms and the first stage is to admit you are struggling and ask for help from your doctor or health care professional. You should never be scared to tell anyone how you are feeling, or fear that your baby will be taken away. Most treatment plans involve supporting you so that you are able to care for your baby yourself. If you are suffering from severe Postpartum Depression, the right treatment may involve a hospital stay but the aim will be to admit you to a mother and baby unit where you can both be looked after together.

The types of therapies you could be offered may include counselling, psychotherapy or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. All of these will help you to explore the reasons behind your Postpartum Depression and look at strategies you can use to develop your own strengths and resources. Psychotherapy looks at your life as a whole including early childhood experiences and family relationships to see if there are any patterns of thinking and emotion behind the way you feel. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a practical, solution focused treatment which involves challenging and changing your beliefs and thinking about your situation. For instance, you may think you are a bad mother because you are depressed and can’t care for your child. CBT would help you to look at the ‘bigger picture’ of your situation and include factors such as being tired or the fact you might be struggling with lack of support and money.

Anti-depressants, sleeping tablets and tranquilizers are the most common types of medications offered for Postpartum Depression. The most important point to bear in mind when considering medication is whether it can enter the breast milk. If you are breastfeeding, you should discuss all your options with your doctor, who will help you weight up any risks to the baby. There are also side-effects with any medication so it’s important to be aware of the risks involved in taking it and decide whether the benefits would outweigh them. Anti-depressants can also take several weeks to work so it’s important to bear this in mind. You may also have to try more than one kind before you find one that works and is suitable. It is recommended that once you have started anti-depressants you should take them for at least six months too. Don’t try to come off them suddenly as they can have unpleasant withdrawal effects. Any reduction in anti-depressant dosage should be supervised by your doctor and carried out slowly.

There is a lot you can do to help yourself if you are suffering from Postpartum Depression. Asking for help from those around you can go a long way towards lessening the symptoms and giving you a feeling of control over your situation. It’s not a weakness to admit you are struggling and need support. Trying to do it all and be ‘superwoman’ can be a recipe for disaster, plus creating windows of time for yourself is important and necessary when faced with the demands of looking after a baby 24 hours a day. Could you get help from your partner, friends or relatives with shopping, cooking and housework? Lack of appetite and interest in food is common with Postpartum Depression so involving others can help make sure you are getting enough nutrients for yourself and your baby too if you are breastfeeding. Also, people often want to help and giving them practical tasks is a good way to involve them. If your baby feeds with a bottle you could also ask for help with this. Even the odd night where you can sleep through undisturbed will make a huge difference to how you feel.

Meeting or talking with other parents can also be extremely helpful and reassuring. See if there are any local support groups or online forums where you can discuss your worries, concerns and frustrations. It can lessen your anxieties to know that other people are going through the same things you are, plus there is always the opportunity to share tips, advice and suggestions. If you are unable to get out to meet people in person, websites such as mumsnet.com can be an invaluable resource in helping you to cope.

Don’t forget there are also numerous Postpartum Depression support organisations you can turn to for emotional and practical support. As a first port of call you could try Postpartum Support International which provides information and advice worldwide.

Joining mother and baby groups in your local area can also be helpful in providing emotional and practical support. It’s a great opportunity to meet other people and learn new skills; these groups often have activities such as baby massage which can be relaxing for both of you. Check out notice boards in your doctor’s surgery, library or community center to find out where and when they are, or research groups online.

Some women also find complementary therapies to be very helpful for Postpartum Depression. These can include aromatherapy, reflexology, massage and herbal remedies. All of these work on the principle of treating a person holistically, or as a whole to support your mind and body in healing. Just make sure to research your practitioner thoroughly and make sure they have full accreditation.

Exercise is also a very helpful method of reducing the symptoms of PD and can often be as effective as anti-depressants. It may seem impossible to find the time or energy, but even a brisk walk with the pram or stroller can lift your heart rate and produce feel-good endorphins in the brain. Again, asking for help with babysitting can give you the time to go for a walk, swim or take a gentle exercise class and help you feel like ‘you’ again.

Ultimately, Postpartum Depression is completely treatable and the earlier you start treatment, the easier it is to recover.



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