A range of options exists for treating postpartum depression

Mild depression after giving birth—a common condition known as "the baby blues"—usually goes away after several days. But when the symptoms of depression linger for two weeks or more following delivery, it’s important for mothers to consider treatment for postpartum depression.

Just like with clinical depression, a doctor will need to rule out other medical conditions before diagnosis of and treatment for postpartum depression begins. Thyroid disease, anemia and other illnesses can cause symptoms that resemble depression; additionally, some medications have depression-like side effects.

Treatment Options for Postpartum Depression

There are a number of treatments available for postpartum depression. Therapy, including cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, and group therapy, has been proven effective at managing the symptoms of depression, according to Massachusetts General Hospital.

Antidepressants may be provided to women with postpartum depression. Breastfeeding moms may be reluctant to take these or other medications, but paroxetine (Paxil), sertraline (Zoloft) and nortriptyline (Aventyl) are considered relatively safe by experts and are among the preferred antidepressants, according to LactMed.com, a database that describes the effects of drugs on breast milk and infant health, hosted by the National Library of Medicine.

In addition to these therapies for postpartum depression, new parents may want to take a few simple steps to alleviate some of the pressures associated with having a newborn:

  • Don't try to do everything.
  • Ask for help—your partner, family, friends or a hired babysitter can help in the home or with the baby.
  • Rest as much as possible, and nap when the baby does.
  • Talk about your feelings with your partner, a family member or a close friend.
  • Avoid major life changes during pregnancy or right after giving birth.
  • Make time to go out, shop, visit friends and spend time alone with your partner.
  • Talk with other parents or join a support group.

Sources:

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

American Psychiatric Association

JAMA Patient Page: Postpartum Depression. JAMA, October 20, 2010—Vol 304, No. 15

Massachusetts General Hospital

Pearlstein, T. et al. "Postpartum Depression." American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology.Volume 200, Issue 4 , Pages 357-364, April 2009. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2008.11.033

Publication Review By: the Editorial staff at HealthCommunities.com

Published: 16 Feb 2011

Last Modified: 01 Oct 2015