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According to Postpartum Support International, one in eight women suffers from postpartum depression (PPD) following childbirth. It can be characterized by feelings of sadness, worthlessness, and hopelessness that do not go away. While many mothers experience some depression after childbirth, commonly known as the “baby blues,” PPD is different. It can seriously affect a mother's bonding with her newborn so that she does not make a connection which in turn can affect the development of the baby.
Fortunately, there are many treatment options available when choosing therapy for postpartum depression.
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Many new mothers prefer to use psychotherapy as they are concerned about using other treatment options; such as taking medications while breastfeeding. Psychotherapy options include: interpersonal therapy; cognitive behavior therapy; and marriage counseling.
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Interpersonal therapy, also known as IPT, focuses on interpersonal relationships and issues. Research shows it is particularly effective when used to treat PPD. Through IPT, a new mother concentrates on topics such as marital issues, role transitions, isolation, demands of a new baby, life changes, and other current concerns. When suffering with PPD, a mother’s attention is said to be “distorted” by the depression. The IPT therapist helps to redirect this attention back to where it needs to be by helping to increase self-esteem, improve communication with family, set goals, and find coping skills.
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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive-behavioral therapy changes negative cognitive distortions and aids in the development of coping behaviors. Basically, it helps a person take charge of the way they think and feel. When using CBT in therapy for postpartum depression, the new mother must first learn to recognize and identify her negative thoughts and feelings. This may be done with the use of a journal or chart system. In addition, she may be given some forms to fill out at home that will help her identify the negative thoughts and feelings, as well as their patterns to their occurrence. The therapist will then help the mother to understand the falseness of her negativity, and replace harmful and damaging thoughts with positive ones.
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Marital issues and difficulties are sometimes common after the birth of a child. When the mother suffers from PPD, these issues can become even worse. Marriage counseling can help the mother verbalize and explain why she feels she may be unsupported at home, as well as voicing her fears, or frustrations. In addition, the husband has an opportunity to express his feelings and thoughts as well, allowing both parties to come to a better understanding. Marriage counseling can be very beneficial. A research study by Dwenda Gjerdingen, MD, MS, reported that women who attend counseling with their partner showed a marked improvement in depression after four weeks; far better than those who attended alone.
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Therapy for Postpartum Depression: Other Types
Peer Support Groups
Knowing you’re not alone can help immensely when seeking therapy for postpartum depression. Women often report isolation and a poor social and support system as factors in their depression.
Hormone therapy, such as estrogen replacement therapy, can sometimes helps ease the symptoms of postpartum depression. Used in combination with antidepressants, estrogen has been used to help women who suffer from PPD cope with mood changes, and anxiety. However, hormone therapy comes with risks. Talk to your doctor to determine if hormone therapy is a good option for you.
Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)
Electroconvulsive therapy, also known as ECT, is used in only extreme cases of PPD, usually when suicidal or homicidal thoughts, episodes of psychoses or severe drug resistance are present.
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Gjerdingen, Dwenda, MD, MS. The Effectiveness of Various Postpartum Depression Treatments and the Impact of Antidepressant Drugs on Nursing Infants. Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine. Volume 16. Number 5. (September – October 2003). Retrieved from http://www.jabfp.org January 7, 2011.
The New York Times. Health Guide. (January 2009). Retrieved from http://health.nytimes.com/health/guides/disease/post-partum-depression/psychotherapy.html January 7, 2011.
PostpartumSupport International. Retrieved from www.Postpartum.net January 4, 2011.