Facts to Know
- Postpartum depression is a common illness affecting up to 15-20% of mothers.
- Women with a history of depression are at increased risk.
- Postpartum depression is treatable with psychotherapy and/or medications.
What is postpartum depression (PPD)?
Postpartum depression is a common illness affecting 15-20% of mothers after giving birth. Although symptoms of postpartum depression often present within the first month after delivery, women remain at risk for PPD up to one year, or sometimes longer. For many women, the symptoms start during pregnancy. These include disrupted sleep, poor appetite, low mood, and anxiety.
The exact cause of postpartum depression is unknown, but some factors likely include rapid hormonal shifts after delivery, sleep deprivation, and the emotional changes that go along with becoming a parent. Women with a personal or family history of depression are at increased risk. Untreated postpartum depression can lead to poor attachment with the baby, difficulties with work and or relationships, and, in severe cases, maternal suicide.
- Depressed mood, anger, and irritability
- Sleep and appetite changes
- Lack of interest in the baby
- Feelings of guilt, hopelessness
- Frequent crying
- Anxiety or excessive worry
- Intrusive thoughts about the baby’s safety
- Suicidal ideation
- Personal or family history of depression
- Complicated pregnancy
- Financial stress
- Relationship problems
- Lack of social support
- Domestic violence
Diagnosis of postpartum depression is best made by a licensed mental health clinician such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or nurse practitioner. If you have any of the symptoms above and are having difficulty functioning, it is important to tell a medical professional and obtain appropriate treatment.
At ColumbiaDoctors Psychiatry, our Women’s Program has a dedicated team of therapists, psychiatrists, and nurse practitioners who have specialized training and clinical experience in treating postpartum depression. Treatment varies depending on the severity of the symptoms and the unique needs of each patient. Click here to search for a provider who might be a good fit.
Psychotherapy is an evidence-based treatment for mild postpartum depression and can also be used in conjunction with other treatments. ColumbiaDoctors has many providers with training in different psychotherapeutic treatments. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Interpersonal Therapy are both effective treatments for mild postpartum depression. Parent Infant Psychotherapy is another type of treatment that targets bonding, which can be affected by maternal depression. Support groups and group psychotherapy are also helpful for mothers with PPD, who often struggle with feelings of isolation and shame about how they are feeling.
Medication is an effective option for moderate to severe postpartum depression. A thorough discussion regarding risks and benefits of antidepressants, including options during breastfeeding, should be discussed with a psychiatrist. Antidepressants are first line treatment for moderate to severe PPD. In some cases, using an anti-anxiety medication or a sleep aid is also useful. In severe cases, when the mother’s or child’s health or safety is at risk, an urgent consultation and prompt treatment is necessary.
*If you are having serious thoughts about ending your life, please call 911 or present to your nearest emergency room for immediate treatment.
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