Postpartum Depression and Antidepressant Use

Contributor: Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC Special Projects Coordinator at Eating Disorder Hope/Addiction Hope

baby-17327_640The challenges that come with brining a new baby into the world are numerous.  From recovering from childbirth to learning how to feed and care for a new baby, having a newborn can prove stressful, challenging, joyful and overwhelming in many ways.  Combining fatigue with drastic hormonal changes and an enormous life transition can make for a period of time that is a struggle to keep up with.  It is no surprise that many women struggle with postpartum depression following the delivery of their baby.  More than just the “baby blues”, postpartum depression is a sincere mental illness that should be adequately treated and addressed.

Postpartum Depression

Unfortunately, many women may find it difficult to come forward with their struggles after delivery their baby due to the stigma that surrounds this mental illness.  It is often believed that having a baby should automatically equate to blissful feelings, and if the motherhood experience is anything less than this, that surely something must not be right.  Many mothers also experience guilt over the sadness, anger, or lack of bonding they may feel with their new child.  However, this is part of the illness that should be addressed with treatment.

Close-up of a sad and depressed womanPostpartum depression includes but is not limited to the experience of the following symptoms after the birth of a child:

  • Changes or disruption in normal eating habits
  • Changes or disruption in normal sleeping habits, insomnia
  • Feeling irritated, easily angered or out of control range
  • Feeling hopeless, defeated or like things will never get better
  • Difficulty completing daily tasks and activities
  • Feeling resentful or angry towards your baby
  • Feeling guilty and overwhelmed
  • Tearfulness, extreme sadness
  • Unable to bond with baby or feeling disconnected from baby’s needs
  • Thoughts of suicide or suicidal ideations
  • Thoughts of harming baby

Because of the severity of these symptoms, seeking out professional help and intervention as soon as possible can be crucial for managing postpartum depression.  If you are a new mother who has experienced any of the above symptoms, or if you are just not feeling like yourself after delivering your baby, be sure to have a discussion with your OBGYN.  It is important to tell your doctor about how you are feeling in order to receive the support and treatment you need to get better.

Group of young people during psychotherapyEffective forms of treatment for postpartum depression typically include the use of an antidepressant and psychotherapy.  Your doctor can help determine what antidepressant may be most effective for you and compatible with breastfeeding, if you have chosen to do so.  Your doctor can also help you figure out which dosage might be most appropriate for managing your symptoms, and this may need to be adjusted over a period of time.  IF your OBGYN is unable to adequately help you manage your postpartum depression, he or she will likely refer you to a specialist, typically a psychiatrist or therapist familiar with dealing with this mental illnesses.

While taking an antidepressant may seem like a quick fix, the use of medication alone is not the most effective way for dealing with postpartum depression.  Incorporating psychotherapy, whether through a support group or individual counseling, will help you better address the complexity of this condition.  It may feel more burdensome to make appointments and find the time to meet with a counselor, but this will only help you recover and manage your symptoms.  Talk with your doctor about resources for psychotherapy and support group options.

Remember, the diagnosis of postpartum depression does not mean you are anything less as a mother.  Seeking out the help you need will only make you a better mother to your child and help you better manage this new transition in your life.  Most importantly, do not feel that you have to go through this alone.  Talk to someone you can trust and confide in.  Speaking about what you are struggling with can alleviate you of the pressures you may be feeling and better connect you to the help and treatment you need.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

Are you a new mother that has struggled with postpartum depression?  What resources have been helpful to you get through this phase of your life?  What was your experience with antidepressant medication?

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions and co-occurring disorders.  These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.  We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors.  If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.  

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on October 9, 2015, 2015. Published on