Treatment Options for Postpartum Depression
Postpartum depression is a serious and common mental health condition that affects up to 20% of new mothers. While the condition is well-known, it is not always easy to recognize and can be mistaken for the relatively harmless “baby blues.” For new moms and their loved ones, it’s crucial to know the difference between postpartum and the baby blues, and what the treatment options are for this serious mental health condition.
What is the difference between postpartum depression and the baby blues?
When a woman is pregnant, the hormones progesterone and estrogen are sustained at high levels. Once a woman gives birth, these hormones fall back to baseline. While these hormones are trying to regulate themselves, women can experience moodiness, anxiety, and trouble sleeping or otherwise adjusting to life with a newborn. These feelings are called the “baby blues” and are a pretty normal part of motherhood.
The transition to motherhood is a stressful time for anyone, but environmental stressors during this time of upheaval can trigger postpartum depression. Although postpartum depression causes are not entirely understood, free-falling hormones, a personal or family history of depression, and outside stressors can trigger the disorder.
The major difference between usual baby blues and postpartum depression is that postpartum interferes with daily functioning, and causes significant impairment in how a new mom is able to care for herself and her baby. Women with postpartum will feel excessively guilty or worried that they cannot properly care for their newborn. They may also experience thoughts of suicide and self-harm. The symptoms of postpartum depression can make it difficult for women to bond with their children.
Is postpartum depression dangerous?
Rarely, postpartum depression can develop into postpartum psychosis. Postpartum psychosis is characterized by delusions and excessive fear and worries about the baby. Women with postpartum psychosis will have intrusive, ruminating thoughts about harming herself and the baby. If a woman experiences symptoms of postpartum psychosis or suicidal thoughts from postpartum depression, she needs immediate medical attention.
Why should someone seek treatment for postpartum depression?
Untreated postpartum depression can develop into postpartum psychosis. But in most cases, untreated postpartum depression will fade within a year after giving birth. However, it leaves women incredibly vulnerable to experiencing the condition again with subsequent pregnancies, and also puts her at risk of contracting severe, clinical depressive disorder as the baby grows.
Also, there is a body of research indicating that untreated postpartum depression significantly impairs the bonding process between mom and baby. It’s crucial that babies can bond with their caregivers. Children of mothers with untreated postpartum are more likely to experience emotional or behavioral problems, and delays in language development.
Untreated postpartum depression can also put a strain on new dads, where the depression in the mothers can increase the chances of new fathers becoming depressed as well. New research also suggests that new fathers are at risk of developing depression even if the baby’s mom does not get postpartum depression. Regardless, young families need a lot of support during the transition to parenthood to prevent depression and other mental health conditions from developing in the family members during this stressful time of life.
What are the treatment options for postpartum depression?
All expectant moms and dads-to-be need a strong support network in place to help them navigate life with a newborn. Having a strong support network is one of the most effective ways to prevent postpartum depression from happening. But even people with strong support networks can still develop postpartum. Fortunately, there are many different ways to treat the disorder, as long as people are not ashamed to reach out for help. Up to 90% of mothers who seek treatment for postpartum will experience a reduction of depressive symptoms with a combination of medications and therapy.
Usually, a doctor will prescribe a combination of medications and talk therapy for moms with postpartum as the first line of treatment. Because postpartum depression is similar to major clinical depression, SSRIs can be useful for treating postpartum. Women who receive medications plus several talk therapy sessions usually see improvements. Fluoxetine is the medication most commonly used for women with postpartum.
There are few studies on the effect of medication on nursing infants, and in most instances, the decision to try medication for a nursing mother is determined on a case-by-case basis. For nursing moms and women who’ve had depression before but did not respond to medication, there are other alternatives to treating postpartum.
For women who do not want to take medications for whatever personal or medical reasons they may have, deep brain stimulation techniques can be effective for alleviating depression symptoms. For pregnant and nursing mothers, transcranial magnetic stimulation techniques are safe and can relieve the symptoms of postpartum depression.
Transcranial magnetic stimulation therapy is a noninvasive procedure and does not require a woman to take either medication or anesthetic that can put her unborn baby or nursing infant at risk of side effects. With TMS, areas of the brain are targeted explicitly with a magnetic coil. Treatment is restricted to these areas of the brain. Whereas with medication, the drugs circulate throughout the entire bloodstream, exposing an unborn or nursing baby to the drug.
With TMS, the magnetic coil is placed over regions of the head that are thought to play a role in the manifestation of depression symptoms. The magnetic coil sends pulses to these regions of the brain. Most people who receive treatment for depression via TMS see a reduction in symptoms quickly. With medication, symptoms can take weeks to dissipate as the drugs take effect.
TMS treatment sessions take less than one hour and the side effects are minimal. With TMS, a woman is not required to leave her newborn for long periods, and the side effects will not prevent her from caring for her infant.
Untreated postpartum depression can have a detrimental ripple effect throughout a new mom’s entire family. It’s crucial that she receives help for postpartum. If you or a new mother that you care about is struggling with the symptoms of postpartum depression, please speak to the helpful technicians at Pulse TMS today about treatment for depression with effective transcranial magnetic stimulation.