Psychotherapy And Postpartum Depression
Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, is commonly prescribed alone or with antidepressants to treat postpartum depression. Your doctor can refer you to a qualified mental health professional who specializes in treating postpartum depression.
Youâll meet with a counselor on a regular basis to talk. Theyâll ask about your life, and itâs important that you answer honestly. You wonât be judged for what you tell, and whatever you talk about will be just between the two of you.
Your counselor will teach you how to look at some things differently and how to change certain habits to help yourself feel better. There are two common types of therapy for women with postpartum depression:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy. You and your counselor work together to identify, then change, thoughts and behaviors that are harmful to your mental health.
- Interpersonal therapy. Your therapist helps you better understand how you behave in your relationships and how to work through any problems.
Try To Give Yourself Grace
Recognize that your experience is valid, and it is not your fault that you are struggling, says Kara Kushnir, a New Jersey licensed clinical social worker trained in perinatal and postpartum mental health.
Youre not a bad parent because you were diagnosed with PPD and things will get better with treatment and time. PPD can affect both the birthing parent and the non-birthing parent.
According to a 2021 study, roughly
- the birthing parents mental health
- lack of a support system
In other words, says Sandy J. Green, a certified lactation counselor, postpartum doula, and the founder of Taking Care of Mama, it is likely caused by various factors none of which is your fault.
It might sound cliche to sleep when the baby sleeps but the truth is, sleep is incredibly important to your mental health. So when and if you can sleep, you should.
According to a , sleep deprivation is believed to increase the chances of developing PPD.
A large indicated that both parents are more likely to have depressive symptoms if the birthing parent sleeps poorly.
Another involving 360 women in Ardabil, Iran suggested that women that didnt sleep well were 3 times more likely to experience PPD compared to postpartum women with good sleep quality.
Be Concrete In Planning How To Help
Another great way to support her is by creating a plan alongside her to get her help through a therapist or find a healthy coping mechanism. The important part is to be concrete with this. Dont speak in hypotheticals or use generalizations. Sitting down to email multiple perinatal therapists or signing up for activities to get involved in is better than staying in the research phase.
A great tool for writing out a concrete postpartum plan is the Postpartum Support System.
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Postpartum Depression Or Baby Blues
As mentioned earlier, some mood changes after pregnancy are to be expected. The mild feelings of irritability, sadness, and mood swings after childbirth is often called the baby blues.
The baby blues has some symptoms in common with PPD namely changes in mood, appetite, or sleep habits. Its even common for new parents to have difficulty bonding with their baby in the days, weeks, and even months following birth.
However, the baby blues are neither as intense or long-lasting as postpartum depression. The symptoms of the baby blues should start to dissipate after about two weeks.
If your symptoms last longer than that, feel out of control, or scare you, you should reach out to a mental health professional for additional help.
A Husbands Guide To Dealing With Postpartum Depression
- United We Care
Imagine this scenario: Your wife has recently given birth to a beautiful and healthy child. You realize shes going through some intense emotions after her delivery. You soon realize that your wife is having major mood swings, which might include excessive crying, insomnia, lack of concentration and fatigue.
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Can Ppd Be Prevented
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force says that certain kinds of counseling can prevent perinatal depression for women at increased risk of depression. Counseling is when you talk about your feelings and concerns with a counselor or therapist. This person helps you understand your feelings, solve problems and cope with things in your everyday life.
The Task Force recommends counseling for women with one or more of these risk factors:
- Current signs and symptoms of depression
- A history of depression or other mental health condition
- Being pregnant as a teenager or being a single mom
- Having stressful life circumstances, like low income
- Being a victim of IPV
The Task Force recommends two kinds of counseling to prevent PPD for women at increased risk:
Do I Have Postpartum Anxiety Or Postpartum Depression
Postpartum anxiety and postpartum depression share some symptoms, but they are different conditions. Excessive worrying, feeling panicky for no reason and having irrational fears or obsessions are all signs of postpartum anxiety. It’s important to discuss all your symptoms with your healthcare provider so they can get you the help you need.
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What Are The Treatments For Postpartum Depression
Postpartum depression sometimes goes away on its own within 3 months of giving birth. But if it interferes with your everyday life at any time, or if “the blues” last longer than 2 weeks, you should seek treatment. About 90% of women who have postpartum depression can be treated successfully with medication or a combination of medication and psychotherapy. A support group may also be helpful.
In cases of severe postpartum depression or postpartum psychosis, hospitalization may be necessary. Sometimes, if symptoms are especially severe, electroconvulsive therapy may be used to treat severe depressions with hallucinations or delusions or overwhelming suicidal thoughts.
It is best to seek treatment as soon as possible. If it’s detected late or not at all, the condition may get worse. Also, experts have found that children can be affected by a parent’s untreated PPD. They may be more prone to sleep disturbances, impaired cognitive development, insecurity, and frequent temper tantrums.
While youâre recovering from postpartum depression, youâll probably see an improvement from month to month. Be aware that your symptoms may flare up before a menstrual period because of fluctuations in your hormones.
Join An Online Support Group
These days, so many moms find their tribes online. There are so many online parenting support groups. Some may deal specifically with postpartum depression, but others may just have to do what a hobby, such as knitting or scrapbooking.
Whats great about online moms groups is that you can connect to other moms while you breastfeed your baby on the couch, or while youre up again feeding your baby in the middle of the night. There is true value in having that kind of a lifeline.
Listen To Her And Let Her Know You Arent Judging
Allowing new moms to have the space to share their feelings and thoughts without judgement is one of the best ways to support them.
Intrusive thoughts are common in postpartum. Most people dont feel comfortable sharing these disturbing thoughts even in therapy. However, speaking them out loud often gives the scary thoughts less power. A great book to refer her to is Good Moms Have Scary Thoughts by Karen Kleiman.
Signs And Symptoms Of Postpartum Psychosis
Postpartum psychosis is a rare, but extremely serious disorder that can develop after childbirth, characterized by loss of contact with reality. Because of the high risk for suicide or infanticide, hospitalization is usually required to keep the mother and the baby safe.
Postpartum psychosis develops suddenly, usually within the first two weeks after delivery, and sometimes within 48 hours. Symptoms include:
- Extreme agitation and anxiety
- Inability or refusal to eat or sleep
- Thoughts of harming or killing your baby
Postpartum psychosis should be considered a medical emergency requiring immediate medical attention.
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Tip : Make Time For Your Relationship With Your Partner
More than half of all divorces take place after the birth of a child. For many couples, the relationship with their partner is their primary source of emotional expression and social connection. The demands and needs of a new baby can get in the way and fracture this relationship unless couples put some time, energy, and thought into preserving their bond.
Dont scapegoat. The stress of sleepless nights and caretaking responsibilities can leave you feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. And since you cant take it out on the baby, its all too easy to turn your frustrations on your partner. Instead of finger pointing, remember that youre in this together. If you tackle parenting challenges as a team, youll become an even stronger unit.
Keep the lines of communication open. Many things change following the birth of a baby, including roles and expectations. For many couples, a key source of strain is the post-baby division of household and childcare responsibilities. Its important to talk about these issues, rather than letting them fester. Dont assume your partner knows how you feel or what you need.
Carve out some couples time. Its essential to make time for just the two of you when you can reconnect. But dont put pressure on yourself to be romantic or adventurous . You dont need to go out on a date to enjoy each others company. Even spending 15 or 20 minutes togetherundistracted and focused on each other can make a big difference in your feelings of closeness.
How Is Postpartum Depression Diagnosed
There is not a specific test that diagnoses postpartum depression. Your healthcare provider will evaluate you at your postpartum visit. This visit may include discussing your health history, how youâve felt since delivery, a physical exam, pelvic exam and lab tests. Many providers schedule visits at two or three weeks postpartum to screen for depression. This ensures you get the help you need as soon as possible.
They may do a depression screening or ask you a series of questions to assess if you have postpartum depression. They’ll ask how you’re feeling and how your baby is doing. Be open and honest with your provider to ensure they get an accurate picture of your emotions and thoughts. They can help distinguish if your feelings are typical or symptoms of postpartum depression.
Your healthcare provider may order a blood test because postpartum depression can cause symptoms similar to many thyroid conditions.
Remember, your healthcare provider is there to support you and make sure you are healthy, so be honest with them. There is no judgment, and you arenât alone in your feelings.
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What Is Postpartum Psychosis
Postpartum psychosis is rare. It happens in up to 4 new mothers out of every 1,000 births. It usually begins in the first 2 weeks after childbirth. It is a medical emergency. Women who have bipolar disorder or another mental health condition called schizoaffective disorder have a higher risk of postpartum psychosis. Symptoms may include:
- Seeing or hearing things that arent there
- Feeling confused most of the time
- Having rapid mood swings within several minutes
- Trying to hurt yourself or your baby
- Restlessness or agitation
- Behaving recklessly or in a way that is not normal for you
What Causes Postpartum Depression
More research is needed to determine the link between the rapid drop in hormones after delivery and depression. The levels of estrogen and progesterone increase tenfold during pregnancy but drop sharply after delivery. By three days postpartum, levels of these hormones drop back to pre-pregnancy levels.
In addition to these chemical changes, the social and psychological changes associated with having a baby increase your risk of postpartum depression. Examples of these changes include physical changes to your body, lack of sleep, worries about parenting or changes to your relationships.
If you’ve had any of the following symptoms, please notify your healthcare provider right away.
- Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby.
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide.
- Depressed mood for most of the day, nearly every day for the last two weeks.
- Feeling anxious, guilty, hopeless, scared, panicked or worthless.
- Difï¬culty thinking, concentrating, making decisions or dealing with everyday situations.
- Loss of interest or pleasure in most activities nearly every day for the last two weeks.
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How Partners Family And Friends Can Help
Strong support from partners, family and friends is very important. Here are some suggestions from Moms Mental Health Matters, a National Institutes for Health initiative, for how loved ones can help:
- Know the Signs. Learn to recognize the symptoms of depression and anxiety and if you see signs, urge her to see a health care provider.
- Listen to Her. Let her know you want to hear her concerns. For example, “I notice you are having trouble sleeping, even when the baby sleeps. What’s on your mind?”
- Give Her Support. Let her know she’s not alone and you are here to help. Try offering to help with household tasks or watching the baby while she gets some rest or visits friends.
- Encourage her to seek help if needed. She may feel uncomfortable and not want to seek help. Encourage her to talk with a health care provider. Share some information on peripartum conditions. Offer to make an appointment for her talk with someone.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at for free and confidential emotional supportthey talk about more than just suicide.
How Common Is Ppd
Up to 1 in 7 women experience PPD.
For half of women diagnosed with PPD, this is their first episode of depression.
About half of women who are later diagnosed with PPD may have begun experiencing symptoms during pregnancyso its important to seek help early! Getting the right help can make all the difference for you, your baby and your family.
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Frequently Asked Questions Expand All
- What are the baby blues?
About 23 days after childbirth, some women begin to feel depressed, anxious, and upset. They may feel angry with the new baby, their partners, or their other children. They also may:
Cry for no clear reason
Have trouble sleeping, eating, and making choices
Question whether they can handle caring for a baby
These feelings, often called the baby blues, may come and go in the first few days after childbirth.
The baby blues usually get better within a few days or 12 weeks without any treatment.
Women with postpartum depression have intense feelings of sadness, anxiety, or despair that prevent them from being able to do their daily tasks.
Postpartum depression can occur up to 1 year after having a baby, but it most commonly starts about 13 weeks after childbirth.
Postpartum depression probably is caused by a combination of factors. These factors include the following:
Changes in hormone levelsLevels of estrogen and progesterone decrease sharply in the hours after childbirth. These changes may trigger depression in the same way that smaller changes in hormone levels trigger mood swings and tension before menstrual periods.
National Womens Health Information Center
Identifying Postpartum Anxiety Disorders
Although anywhere from about 6% to 28% of women may develop postpartum anxiety. If you think you have an anxiety disorder, your healthcare professional will probably recommend ruling out any physical problem first, such as hypoglycemia and hypothyroidism, before assuming anxiety is the cause.
In addition to good eating habits, rest and exercise, you can also benefit from relaxation exercises, support groups, counseling, and/or anti-depressants. Some of the support groups also offer referral services to mental health practitioners with a special interest in postpartum anxiety disorders.
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Make Time For Yourself
This may sound completely impractical when you are caring for a baby! Yet one of the triggers of postpartum depression is feeling overwhelmed and like your sense of self has been lost in a pile of diapers and burp cloths.
Taking time for yourself doesnt have to be extravagant. Maybe it means letting the dishes pile up in the sink while you read the next chapter in your favorite novel. Maybe it means getting in a sweat session while your baby naps. Whatever it is, take a handful of minutes out of your day just for you. Make yourself a priority.
How Can I Help Someone With Postpartum Depression
People with postpartum depression need lots of support. Here are some ways you can help:
- Know the signs of depression and anxiety and urge your friend or partner to seek medical care.
- Be a good listener. Let them know you’re there to listen and help.
- Offer to help them with daily tasks like cleaning and running errands.
- Offer to help watch their baby while they sleep or rest.
- Encourage them to seek help from a therapist or other mental health provider. Offer to set up an appointment or go with them as a support person.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Postpartum depression is a common mood disorder that affects 1 in 7 people after giving birth. It’s not your fault, and you did nothing to cause it. It doesn’t make you a bad parent or a bad person. The biological, physical and chemical factors that cause PPD are beyond your control. Signs of postpartum depression include feeling sad or worthless, losing interest in things you once enjoyed, excessive crying and mood swings. Talk to your healthcare provider if you think you have postpartum depression. They can figure out how to best manage your symptoms. Counseling, medication or joining a support group can help.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 04/12/2022.
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