How to Treat Postpartum Depression

A local psychiatrist shares signs to look out for and offers advice on how to treat postpartum depression.

Anyone who knows me knows I always wanted to be a mom. After a two-year struggle to conceive, my wish came true when I welcomed a baby boy.

Adjusting to motherhood wasn’t easy. The sleepless nights, the failed attempt at breastfeeding and pumping and all the changes my body had undergone took its toll.

I didn’t want to feel depressed. I was – and of course, still am – so in love with my beautiful boy. Why was I crying every day, though? Was I really depressed after finally getting what I always wanted?

I was. It didn’t really hit me how depressed I was, though, until I came back to work as a new mom. I was getting re-acclimated professionally and struggling to find myself again.

And I’m not alone. In fact, the American Psychological Association reports that 1 in 7 women experience PPD. Risk factors for PPD include first-time motherhood, lack of social support, a change in hormonal levels after childbirth and more, the APA notes.

Lopa Rana, a Royal Oak Beaumont psychiatrist, works with women suffering from postpartum depression. “It’s actually very common,” she says. “These are the women who have never had depression before.”

Here, Rana provides insight and information for how to treat postpartum depression.

The signs

Seventy to 80 percent of women will have postpartum blues, Rana says. These women generally feel irritable and fatigued. “It’s primarily from a role change,” she says. “It’s an adjustment that the mom is struggling to gain control of.”

While these blues are less concerning, some of these women will slip into postpartum depression. Signs of postpartum depression include sadness, fears about her health and unnatural fears about the baby’s health, appetite and weight fluctuations and trouble sleeping. Mom may feel regret for having a child and suffer from feelings of guilt, too.

“When it starts affecting the bonding with the baby, when she starts to lose joy from that, that’s when it’s critical to be screened,” Rana says.

Families need to be watchful and get the woman screened if they are noticing any of these signs, Rana says. Don’t sweep it under the rug or question what’s wrong with this new mom. Instead, help her find the help she needs.

Treatment options

It takes a village to raise a baby, and when mom is suffering from postpartum depression, she needs to rely on that village. Asking for help is important, but here are some other ways to cope with postpartum depression.

Sleep. Sleep is so important, Rana says, and moms need to make sure they are getting enough of it. So, call your parents, in-laws, sisters and friends to help with the baby while you rest.

Eat. Aside from getting enough shut-eye, be sure to eat. It’s so easy to forget to eat or simply not have the energy to cook, but you need to make sure you’re eating balanced meals to get your body back on track.

“They have just gone through a significant hormonal change,” she says. So it’s good to eat on a schedule to help get your body back in schedule.

Get moving. Exercise helps, too. If you’re able, go for a gentle walk, Rana suggests. If the weather permits, take the baby out for a walk with you.

Make time for yourself. This suggestion, which comes from the Mayo Clinic, is often easy to forget as a new parent, but it’s beneficial. “Get dressed, leave the house, and visit a friend or run an errand,” the site adds. You might even benefit from some alone time with your partner, so ask a family member or friend to watch the baby so you two can have dinner out or go to a movie.

Join a support group. Beaumont’s Parenting Program offers a free Postpartum Adjustment Support Group, which allows women to come together to discuss their struggles, share their concerns and receive answers from professionals. You can find other local support through Postpartum Support International.

Therapy. For moms who need someone to talk to, seeking therapy is another great option. Therapists can provide moms with tools for coping with this big life change. “Through therapy, you can find better ways to cope with your feelings, solve problems, set realistic goals and respond to situations in a positive way,” the Mayo Clinic adds.

Medication. For more extreme cases of postpartum depression, medications, such as Zoloft, Paxil and Prozac are prescribed. “If you’re breast-feeding, any medication you take will enter your breast milk,” the Mayo Clinic notes. “However, some antidepressants can be used during breast-feeding with little risk of side effects for your baby.” Your doctor will help you weigh the risks.

“Once the depression is recognized and she has sought some kind of treatment and intervention, we expect improvement within 12 weeks,” Rana adds. “If she’s getting worse in that time frame, as providers, we become very aggressive stabilizing her.”

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