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Postpartum Depression Treatments that Work

written by: Nichole Bolton • edited by: Paul Arnold • updated: 5/17/2011

Having a new baby is supposed to bring joy, but for some mothers the changes create feelings of extreme sadness and anger. Depression occurs in about 10 percent of new mothers, and finding effective treatments for postpartum depression is key in helping these moms to regain happy, healthy lives.

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    Therapy

    Therapy is one of the most effective treatments for postpartum depression. While mothers may have some idea that they are feeling depressed, doctors and therapists can help to make solid diagnoses and provide recommendations for treatment. Individual therapy provides mothers with a chance to discuss their feelings and hear suggestions for coping. Therapists can also work with moms to teach cognitive behavioral therapy, a process which focuses on changing thought patterns and learning to combat negative emotions with positive thoughts and actions.

    There are also support groups for new mothers that can help depressed moms to realize that they are not alone. Support groups may be aimed specifically at depressed mothers or simply new mothers; most moms will find that many others in the area have experienced some form of postpartum depression or anxiety. Support groups for postpartum depression focus on aiding each mother in getting to know one another and then working week-by-week on topics such as causes, emotions, treatment options, and coping mechanisms. Groups are typically run by trained therapists, with or without the help of doctors. Home visitors, typically nurses or counsellors, are available in some cities to visit new moms in their own homes and make sure that they are coping well with motherhood.

    If a marriage is affected by postpartum depression, marriage counselling may be necessary. Marriage counselling allows both partners to talk about their home lives and feelings in a neutral environment without judgement or arguing. The therapist then acts as a third party to help mediate and provide suggestions on how couples can manage their troubles.

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    Medications

    Medications can be effective treatments for postpartum depression and are usually recommended by both doctors and psychiatrists for moms who experience postpartum depression. Anti-depressants, specifically SSRIs, are often the first choice of medications for postpartum depression. Breastfeeding mothers have a small list of options of anti-depressants that are considered compatible with nursing. These options include Zoloft, Paxil, Celexa, Effexor, and Prozac, with Zoloft considered the safest. Natural medications such as St. John’s Wort have not been subject to the same level of clinical testing to determine whether or not they are safe for use in nursing moms.

    Mothers who are not breastfeeding have more options, including all anti-depressants, anti-psychotic medications, and natural herbs such as St. John’s Wort. A doctor will be able to help mothers to determine the best course of action for each individual situation. Anti-psychotic medications are not readily prescribed, but in some cases they are necessary. If a mother has thoughts of harming herself or anyone else, anti-psychotics and mood stabilizers will often be prescribed, sometimes in addition to anti-depressants.

    Hormone therapy is thought to be effective in helping mothers get past postpartum depression. Hormone therapy uses estrogen supplements to supplement low levels. Although effective in some situations, hormone therapy also has some risks, including an increased risk of breast cancer, blood clots, strokes, and heart disease. Mothers who wish to nurse may not be able to use hormone therapy as a method of treatment.

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    Lifestyle Changes

    Eating well and taking a multivitamin can help mothers to feel healthier and ensure that the body is getting all it needs to work properly. Additional vitamins, such as B-complex, aid in lowering anxiety levels and boosting moods, and so moms could take B-complex supplements and eat meals that are rich in B vitamins. Exercise in combination with vitamins and a healthy diet can promote feelings of well-being and clearer thought processes, along with reducing the anxiety that postpartum depression causes.

    NB: The content of this article is for information purposes and is not intended to replace sound medical advice and opinion.

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    References

    Women'sHealth.gov: Depression During and After Pregnancy - http://www.womenshealth.gov/faq/depression-pregnancy.cfm

    FamilyDoctor.org: Postpartum Depression and the Baby Blues - http://familydoctor.org/online/famdocen/home/women/pregnancy/ppd/general/379.html

    KellyMom: Using Antidepressants in Breastfeeding Mothers - http://www.kellymom.com/health/meds/antidepressants-hale10-02.html

    HelpGuide.org: Postpartum Depression and the Baby Blues - http://www.helpguide.org/mental/postpartum_depression.htm