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How is Postpartum Depression Treated?

Postpartum depression is a very common mental health illness, affecting 1 in 7 new mothers, and more than 3 million US cases every year. Left untreated, postpartum may last several months or longer, but treated a new mother can begin feeling symptoms ease much more quickly. Treatment can include talk therapy, medication, support groups, and intensive outpatient care.

1 – Counseling

Postpartum depression typically causes a whirlwind of emotions, including anxiety, worry, ruminating thoughts, hopelessness, feelings of inadequacy or incompetency, guilt, feeling overwhelmed, or decreased self-esteem. Counseling can help treat these symptoms of postpartum depression by giving the mother a regular time and place to overcome many of these feelings.

During therapy, the mother will be encouraged to discuss her emotions or concerns and will receive skills, tools, resources, and support to take actions that will improve her symptoms, while working through many of the underlying emotions.

2 – Medication

Medication is often used in conjunction with counseling to treat postpartum depression.  Antidepressants are used to help rebalance a mother’s mood and emotions, and to give the mother a “boost” to help her feel better equipped to function day-to-day. This balance usually helps to lift the mother’s mood, improves sleep, and increases concentration.

Many mothers worry about the effects of taking antidepressants when they are breastfeeding. Several studies conducted on specific SSRIs and SNRIs have shown no adverse effects on breastfeeding infants, including some long-term studies that suggest no developmental problems or concerns. As always, consult your healthcare provider before starting any new medications, and talk with them about any concerns you may have.

3 – Support Groups

It’s easy to feel alone as a new mother suffering postpartum depression. New mothers suffering from postpartum depression often feel shame or embarrassment. A support group can be an effective tool in treating postpartum depression because it helps remind the mother she’s not alone. It can also give mothers a place to talk with people who know what they’re going through. Often, being heard and understood is a great step in overcoming postpartum depression.

Support groups aren’t typically used as a standalone treatment for postpartum depression as they are more effective when used in conjunction with counseling and medication.

4 – Intensive Outpatient

Intensive outpatient programs are programs that often combine group, individual, and partner sessions to treat postpartum depression. Mothers and babies will typically meet for 3 hours a day 3 days a week. This combination of treatments offers the mother the support of mothers who understand what each other is going through and support each other through their recovery, counseling to build skills to overcome challenges, partner sessions to empower family members, and one-on-one counseling to overcome challenges and talk through emotions. Intensive outpatient care also often includes medication management to jumpstart recovery and help the mother feel more capable and able to undergo therapy.

While intensive outpatient is often thought to be necessary only for “extreme” cases of postpartum depression, it’s a viable resource for any level of postpartum depression. Because of the regular meetings, combination of treatments, and support, intensive outpatient treatment is often the quickest way to treat postpartum depression, see recovery, and start feeling “back to normal.”

Read more about Serenity Recovery & Wellness postpartum intensive outpatient program here.

5 – Self-Care

Some mothers opt to overcome postpartum depression without the help of a professional. This can be a viable option when the postpartum depression is minor, though it will typically take longer to see results and “feel better” with self-care than with professional treatment. Self-care often includes combining relaxation techniques with healthy living habits (like diet and exercise), asking for help when it’s needed, and being open and honest about your feelings with friends or family members. For more thoughts on self-care, read our article on How to Overcome Postpartum Depression at Home.


Would you like more information about postpartum depression?

Do you have questions about postpartum depression or aren’t sure what type of postpartum depression treatment may be right for you? Please feel free to reach out. Our staff will be happy to answer your questions about postpartum depression and recovery. Contact Us.