May 19, 2021
Tips for Treatment of Prenatal & Postpartum Depression
By: Cara Terreri | 0 Comments
May is Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month. Prenatal depression (depression during pregnancy) and postpartum depression (depression after birth) are also referred to as PD, PPD, or PPMAD, and are are very common. Around the world, 2 out of 10 people experience depression during pregnancy or in the first year after birth.
Thankfully, prenatal and postpartum depression (along with associated mental health disorders like anxiety, OCD, and psychosis) are treatable, and should be treated to experience 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, which improves overall health. Getting help with depression early, instead of waiting for problems to reach a breaking point, helps with faster recovery and causes less overall stress for parents, babies, and families. That said, treatment is beneficial and critical at any time during depression.
Treatment and recovery times vary, but can take as little as 6-8 weeks to improve or cure perinatal and postpartum depression when the treatment is effective. Without treatment, the disorder may last up to or longer than a year, bringing additional risk factors, including stress and other illnesses. With effective and continued treatment, perinatal and postpartum depression symptoms improve or go away altogether. There are some instances when depression or related illnesses become chronic and ongoing treatment is necessary.
It helps to understand what treatment looks like and what you can expect out of treatment.
Prenatal & Postpartum Depression Treatment Tips
- Not all treatment is the same. The kind of treatment you receive and what ultimately works best for you will not be the same as everyone else's. Effective treatment varies according to your symptoms and the severity of depression. This is important to know because you may need to try a few different types of treatment before landing on one that works. Talk to your doctor about pros and cons of different kinds of treatment to evaluate what feels right for you.
- Types of treatment include: Talk therapy (counseling, psychotherapy); behavioral therapy; medication; lifestyle changes; peer support groups; light therapy; and more. The treatment that works best for you may include a combination of practices.
- Seek support during your treatment. During treatment and recovery, your care is of utmost importance. Find support from family and friends (those who truly champion your health) and consider hiring a postpartum doula, if possible.
- Less is more during recovery. Pare down your workload as much as possible and allow yourself to really rest -- guilt free. You wouldn't feel guilty about taking necessary medication -- think of rest in the same way. Try to eat a well-rounded diet that includes fruits, vegetables, and protein, and monitor both caffeine and alcohol intake, both of which can worsen depression. Try to find time for low-effort exercise, like a short walk, which improves symptoms of depression.
- Therapy helps in many ways, including teaching you how to better cope with your feelings, thoughts, and day-to-day life. Therapists will help you set goals, solve problems, and deal 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.
- Continue with your treatment. Never discontinue treatment (whether medication, therapy, or both) without first discussing with your doctors. Stopping treatment early could cause a relapse; stopping medication without weaning appropriately can cause dangerous side effects.
- Treatment is not a quick fix. And in fact, treatment can feel like it's taking a long time. 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 treatment or how you can modify your existing treatment.
- Taking breaks from your role as a parent is healthy. 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.