Do I Need Therapy for Postpartum Depression?

When you have postpartum depression, you want relief. You need to feel like yourself again and start to enjoy your new baby. Your doctor can offer you help, and for many women counseling is part of the solution.

What is Talk Therapy?

Postpartum depression is a severe form of clinical depression related to pregnancy and childbirth.

As with other cases of depression, doctors often suggest counseling, also known as talk therapy, as one form of treatment. If you and your doctor decide that this will help, you will meet with a counselor on a regular basis to talk.

You don’t need to do anything special to prepare. Your counselor will ask questions about your life, and it’s important you answer honestly. You won’t be judged for what you tell, and whatever you talk about will be just between the two of you.

Your counselor will teach you how to look at some things differently, and how to change certain habits to help yourself feel better. Therapy is personalized for everyone, but women in counseling for postpartum depression often discuss topics including:

Your feelings. Are you overwhelmed? Do you connect well with your new baby?

Your beliefs. Do you think you fall short on how new mothers should act?

Your behavior. What might you be doing that keeps you feeling so low?

Your life now. It’s changed a lot. Are you finding it hard to adjust? Are you missing your pre-baby life?

Your history. What details about you -- your past, your family and your partner, for instance -- do you think are important?

How Will Counseling Help?

There are two common types of therapy for women with postpartum depression:

Cognitive behavioral therapy. You and your counselor work together to identify, then change, thoughts and behaviors that are harmful to your mental health.

Interpersonal therapy. Your therapist helps you better understand how you behave in your relationships and how to work through any problems.

To benefit most from either type of therapy, you should attend sessions regularly. Your counselor may want to see you weekly, or maybe more or less often.

Your counseling could last for a few weeks or months, or for a year or more. The length of time will depend on what you and your counselor discuss. But the key to improvement is to go to your appointments.

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Beyond Talk Therapy

You may need more than counseling. That’s OK. Different combinations of talk therapy, medication, and exercise can get you relief.

Medicine. Antidepressants are drugs designed to treat depression, including postpartum depression. They work on different chemicals in your brain. Many doctors prescribe antidepressants to their patients with postpartum depression while they’re also in counseling. Some are even safe to use while you breastfeed. Just let your doctor know if you’re nursing.

Self-care. Get more sleep and exercise, eat healthy foods, do fun activities and relax. Doing these things can help to boost your mood.

How to Find a Therapist

If you’re looking for a mental health counselor, ask your family doctor to refer you to someone in your area. Family, friends, or your insurance company may also have names of counselors to try. You can also call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Treatment Referral Helpline at 800-662-4357 or visit the SAMHSA website.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Nivin Todd, MD on July 08, 2018

Sources

SOURCES:

American Academy of Family Physicians: “Depression.”

National Institute of Mental Health: “Postpartum Depression Facts.”

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: “Postpartum Depression.”

National Alliance on Mental Illness: “Mental Health Medications.”

American Academy of Family Physicians: “Postpartum Depression Action Plan.”

National Institute of Mental Health: “Psychotherapies.”

National Institute of Mental Health: “Help for Mental Illnesses.”

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