Postpartum Depression Treatment Options
If you suffer from postpartum depression, please know that you do not need to suffer alone. There is a great deal of stigma associated with mental illness. Postpartum depression is treatable; reach out as you do not need to suffer alone. Research shows that people with mental illness experience externalized (from others) and internalized (self-imposed) shame.
So, sometimes it can feel difficult to admit to others that you need help.
Internalized shame can prevent you from reaching out to others, from opening the door to the possibility of postpartum depression treatment. Having suffered from postpartum depression myself, I can say that I was ashamed to ask for help and was in emotional pain too long. I am hoping that I can help you overcome any reticence you are feeling about your situation and help you open the door to get help. Help is available and treatment is effective.
There are many postpartum depression treatment options: you don’t need to wait to get help. Many professionals recommend that treatment first begins with self-care sleep and social support, then moves to complementary methods such as mindfulness and touch therapies, then moves to professional talk therapy and the use of medication as a last resort. You need to use your judgment, if you are clinically depressed and anxious, medication and talk therapy may be the first thing you reach for.
Traditional postpartum depression treatments include medication and talk therapy. You can add complementary methods, such as bright light therapy, Omega-3 oil supplements, mindfulness meditation, creative arts therapies, yoga, postpartum doula companion care, guided imagery and touch therapies. Additionally, it’s always a wonderful thing to exercise your strengths and help yourself with your favorite self-care and social supports. There are several online resources available where women can find each other and tend and befriend and there are many self-care options that are simple and short.
Postpartum Depression Treatment: Traditional Medical Treatment
Traditional medical treatment is basically getting brave enough to reach out to your primary care physician and having a discussion with him or her about your symptoms. You might bring your partner with you, for emotional support, or to hold the baby, so you have a chance to really talk with your doctor.
If you have a less complex case of postpartum depression or anxiety, usually your primary care physician can treat your symptoms. If your situation is more complex, such as postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (childbirth onset) or you have multi-layered trauma, like pre-existing traumatic experiences that have been reactivated, you probably should find a psychiatrist to manage your psychotropic medications.
In addition to medication, research shows talk therapy has great efficacy in helping heal depression and anxiety. There are many types of talk therapy, depending on your individual situation, you may need just a short course of therapeutic intervention. If you have a history of abuse, depression and anxiety, you may need additional time to heal. Forty years of research on what works in therapy shows that the type or method of therapy is not what works in therapy, rather, it is first client factors and then second, the client-therapist relationship.
Postpartum Depression Treatment: MindBody Therapies
Bright light therapy has been used for over 20 years to treat depression. A 2005 meta-analysis conducted by the American Psychiatric Association indicates that bright light therapy is an effective treatment for depression. Qualitative studies have shown bright light therapy is specifically helpful for women suffering fro postpartum depression. However, although bright light therapy is effective for some people in treating depression, for those with bipolar disorder it can cause mania.
Omega -3 supplementation has been shown in recent small studies to be effective in treatment of postpartum depression symptoms. Researchers say that omega-3 oils should not be used as the sole treatment, but a complementary postpartum depression treatment.
Mindfulness has been shown to reduce anxiety, depression, and symptoms of chronic pain in numerous studies, in just eight weeks of daily practice. Mindfulness is based on the Buddhist vipassana meditation. It’s a simple technique to ease yourself away from conflicting emotions towards peaceful emotions.
Creative Arts The benefit of the creative arts is that they access non-verbal feeling states and imagery, and combines this with and the verbal thought processes. This wholistic approach facilitates the individual’s path towards integration of experience, achieving deeper self-understanding and more complete wholeness.
Yoga The health benefits of yoga are numerous. Yoga has been shown to reduce stress, improve mood, improve fitness and help manage chronic conditions. It’s a win-win.
Postpartum doula carehelps the new mom get some sleep and helps tend to the all-encompassing needs of the new baby. A postpartum doula will do light housework, prepare meals for mom and family. So mom can physically recuperate from giving birth without having to immediately take on her full family responsibilities again. This helps on many levels, including helping healing and reducing stress. Social support helps reduce feelings of isolation and overwhelm. It can be lonely being a new mom. The nurturing presence of a postpartum doula in the house relieves the emotional stress and loneliness.
Guided Imagery is effective in healing emotional and psychological issues and is effective in reducing stress. Many mental health therapists teach guided imagery to their clients, helping them to create a safe place, or emotional strengthening imagery, or protective imagery, as a coping skill.
Touch Therapies: Shiatsu for stress reduction
The BirthTouch® self-help method of shiatsu is a simple way to connect with your partner and family. Just 10 minutes of shiatsu has been shown to reduce symptoms of depression.
Infant massage promotes bonding with your baby and decreases stress hormones in both mom & baby, reduces colic and GI symptoms, relieves muscle pains and assists recovery for preemies. It’s win-win!
Postpartum Depression Treatment: Self-Help
There are many ways to nurture yourself. Remember YOU are important. YOU are valuable!
- One important way is to get a prescription for sleep. Ask for help in getting six hours of sleep so you can get into that deep REM sleep.
- Make your decision about whether or not you want to take medication; either way its a decision.
- Realize that motherhood is a time of big life adjustment, including changes in the mother’s identity and a huge hormonal shift
- Reach out for social support resources, in your family, your community and online.
Some online resources are:
If you need immediate help, please call the
National Suicide Hotline
If you are looking for local pregnancy or postpartum support and resources in your area, please call or email us:
Postpartum Support International Warmline (English & Spanish)