What kinds of treatments help with postpartum depression?
Postpartum depression is treated much like any other depression. Support, counseling ("talk therapy") and medicines can all help. Talk with your doctor about what treatment is best for you.
If I'm breastfeeding, can I take an antidepressant?
If you take an antidepressant medicine, it will go into your breast milk. Talk to your doctor about the risks of taking an antidepressant while breastfeeding. Your doctor can decide which medicine you can use while nursing your baby.
What can I do to help myself?
If you have given birth recently and are feeling sad, blue, anxious, irritable, tired or have any of the other symptoms of postpartum depression, remember that many other women have had the same experience. You're not "losing your mind" or "going crazy" and you shouldn't feel that you just have to suffer through. Here are some things you can do that other mothers with postpartum depression have found helpful:
- Find someone to talk to and tell that person about your feelings.
- Get in touch with people who can help you with child care, household chores and errands. This social support network will help you find time for yourself so you can rest.
- Find time to do something for yourself, even if it's only 15 minutes a day. Try reading, exercising (walking is great for your health and is easy to do), taking a bath or meditating.
- Keep a diary. Every day, write down your emotions and feelings. This is a way to let out your thoughts and frustrations. Once you begin to feel better, you can go back and reread your diary. This will help you see how much better you are.
- Even if you can only get one thing done on any given day, remember that this is a step in the right direction. There may be days when you can't get anything done, but try not to get angry with yourself when this happens.
- It's okay to feel overwhelmed. Childbirth brings many changes and parenting is challenging. When you're not feeling like yourself, these changes can seem like too much to cope with.
- You're not expected to be a "supermom." Be honest about how much you can do, and ask other people to help you when you need it.
- Find a support group in your area. They can put you in touch with people near you who have experience with postpartum depression.
- Talk with your doctor about how you feel. He or she may offer counseling and/or medicines that can help.
Postpartum Major Depression: Detection and Treatment by C. Neill Epperson, M.D. (American Family Physician April 15, 1999, http://www.aafp.org/afp/990415ap/2247.html)
Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff