May 31, 2019
Depression During Pregnancy and Postpartum - What to Expect with Treatment
By: Cara Terreri | 0 Comments
Perinatal depression (around the time of pregnancy) and postpartum depression (after birth), also referred to as PD, PPD, or PPMAD, are very common -- around the world, it affects 2 out of 10 people during pregnancy or in the first year after birth. The good news is that perinatal and postpartum depression (as well as associated mental health disorders like anxiety, OCD, and psychosis) are treatable, and in fact, often must be treated to see improvement or cure.
Unfortunately, 75% of people with a mental health condition during pregnancy or after birth do not receive a diagnosis or treatment. Treatment improves or cures depression symptoms, improving overall health. Getting help with depression early on, instead of waiting for problems to reach a crisis, helps with faster recovery and causes less overall stress for parents, babies, and families.
Treatment and recovery times vary, but on average, it can take as little as 6-8 weeks to improve or cure perinatal and postpartum depression when treatment is effective. Without treatment, the disorder may last up to or longer than a year and can bring with it additional risk factors, including stress and other illnesses. With the right treatment, and continued treatment, perinatal and postpartum depression symptoms usually improve or go away altogether. Of course, there are some instances when the condition can continue and become chronic, in which case continuous treatment is critical.
What to Know About Treatment
- The kind of treatment you receive and works best for you will vary according to your symptoms and the severity of depression.
- Treatment options include talk therapy (counseling, psychotherapy), behavioral therapy, medication, lifestyle changes, peer support groups, and light therapy.
- There are pros and cons to different kinds of therapies; discuss these with your doctor or therapist to evaluate what feels right for you.
- During treatment and recovery, it's important to take care of yourself as best as possible, which means seeking support from family and friends (those who will truly support you) and maybe even a postpartum doula; pare down your workload as much as possible and allow yourself to really rest without guilt (it's for your health!); watch what you eat and consume, paying particular attention to eating a well-rounded diet that includes fruits, vegetables, and protein, and monitor both caffeine and alcohol intake, as these can worsen depression; try to fit in even a little bit of low-effort exercise like a short walk, which can improve symptoms of depression.
- Therapy can help you cope better with your feelings, thoughts, and day-to-day life. Therapists will also help with setting goals, solving problems, dealing with situations in more effective and positive ways.
- Many antidepressants can be taken safely while pregnant and breastfeeding. Talk to your doctor to determine which one is safest and weigh the potential risks vs. the benefits of taking medication (there are many!).
- Continuing treatment is important. Never discontinue treatment (whether medication or therapy or both) without first discussing with your doctors. Stopping treatment early or once you feel better could cause a relapse; stopping medication without weaning appropriately could cause dangerous side effects.
- Treatment can feel slow going. Talk to your doctor about what to expect to understand how you'll know if your treatment is working for you or if you need to seek a different or modified treatment.
- If possible, find ways to take occasional breaks from caring for your baby; it's good for you, your baby, and your family.
For more perinatal and postpartum depression resources, check out Postpartum Support International.