Postpartum Depression: What Is It and How to Treat It

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Postpartum depression is a common and serious psychological disorder that follows childbirth. Women with postpartum depression experience anxiety, intense sadness, and severe fatigue that can make caregiving and bonding with a newborn baby challenging. The exact cause of postpartum depression remains unknown, but the sudden drop in hormones like estrogen and progesterone following childbirth may be responsible and play a significant role.

Postpartum depression shares some symptoms with “baby blues,” a brief period of sadness, irritability, and moodiness that some new mothers experience, but postpartum depression’s symptoms are more intense and last longer. Unlike ‘baby blues,’ postpartum depression may show up at any time within the first year of giving birth.

According to the Mayo Clinic, postpartum depression symptoms can develop during pregnancy and can last for months if untreated. These symptoms are largely the same as those of clinical depression and include:

  • Severe mood swings
  • Depressed mood
  • Anxiety and restlessness
  • Panic attacks
  • Poor concentration, “brain fog,” trouble making decisions
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Decreased libido
  • Trouble bonding with the baby
  • Changes in appetite (eating too much or too little)
  • Sleeping too much or trouble falling asleep
  • Thoughts of harming one’s baby
  • Fatigue and exhaustion
  • Increased irritability 
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness and shame
  • Thoughts of suicide
Postpartum Depression in Fathers

Around 10 percent of men experience paternal postpartum depression. As with new mothers, new dads can also experience mild sadness, moodiness and irritability after the baby arrives, but maternal postpartum depression is much more severe, with more intense symptoms that last longer. It’s more common in men whose partners are also experiencing postpartum depression. Feelings of depression and anxiety are common, along with severe fatigue. They may experience significant disturbances to their sleep and eating. Young fathers, those with a history of depression or those undergoing financial struggles are at the greatest risk of postpartum depression.

Symptoms of Paternal Postpartum Depression:
  • Low to no energy, persistent fatigue
  • Poor concentration
  • Alterations in sleeping and eating
  • Increased use of alcohol or substance abuse
  • Stomach pain, headaches, persistent muscle aches
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Feelings of frustration and elevated irritability, anger outbursts

Postpartum depression treatment in men usually involves psychotherapy, but antidepressants may sometimes be given. In addition, many men seek help through alternative therapies, such as transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS).

Risk Factors for Postpartum Depression

The following factors place a person at risk for postpartum depression:

  • History of depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder
  • Prior history of postpartum depression
  • Having a baby with health complications or illness
  • High levels of stress during the past year
  • Multiple births (twins, triplets or more)
  • Poor social support system 
  • Difficulty breastfeeding
  • Financial problems
Complications of Postpartum Depression

Untreated postpartum depression can last for months or even longer. It can also develop into an ongoing depressive disorder, like major depression. If untreated, mothers can also leave a negative impact on their family’s lives. Children of mothers who are not treated for postpartum depression tend to have more behavioral and emotional issues. Those issues can range from problems with sleeping and eating to more complex issues, like delays in language development.

Treatment for Postpartum Depression

Postpartum treatment options include counseling and sometimes medication. Psychotherapy involves meeting with a trained mental healthcare professional for weekly sessions and is an excellent way to work through the emotional stresses that come after a new baby arrives. Alternative therapies are great options as well, such as transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), where patients don’t require drugs or have to deal with any side effects.

So will postpartum depression go away? The answer is yes, however psychotherapy usually takes several months. Therapy provides education as to the roots of depression, as well as learning techniques to manage and reduce stress and anxiety. Therapists can also help identify specific problems a mother is having and works with her to resolve those specific issues. Another way for postpartum depression to go away is through alternative therapies, where usually there are no side effects and no need for any medication.

How to Beat Postpartum Depression Without Medication

If you want to beat postpartum depression and you’re concerned about the many side effects of antidepressants, consider treatment via Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS). This is an FDA cleared non-invasive treatment for multiple mental health disorders. TMS therapy uses targeted magnetic pulses to stimulate areas of the brain that affect mood, which helps you get back to your best life quickly and with no side effects. Among the many treatment options out there, TMS therapy is an excellent, pain-free solution that is covered by most major insurance companies. The best part is there are no side effects from TMS therapy, making it an excellent solution for those who fear the side effects of medications.

This blog post is meant to be educational in nature and does not replace the advice of a medical professional. See full disclaimer.

Works cited

Commissioner, O. of the. (n.d.). FDA approves first treatment for post-partum depression. Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-approves-first-treatment-post-partum-depression

MGH Center for Women’s Mental Health. (2015, July 22). Postpartum Depression: Who is at Risk? Retrieved from https://womensmentalhealth.org/posts/postpartum-depression-who-is-at-risk/

Postpartum Depression Facts. (n.d.). Retrieved December 16, 2019, from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/postpartum-depression-facts/index.shtml

Trends in Postpartum Depressive Symptoms – 27 States, 2004, 2008, and 2012. (2017, August 1). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/66/wr/mm6606a1.htm

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