Poor family and social support and high stress raise the risk of postpartum depression (PPD). For this reason, every woman with a new baby needs plenty of support from family and friends. Any special care you get will help you get through the challenges of the postpartum period.
More formal PPD treatment and prevention measures include cognitive-behavioral or interpersonal counseling. Light therapy has shown promise as a nonmedication treatment of depression, but has not been studied for postpartum depression. Parent coaching and infant massage can further enrich your relationship with your baby.
In rare cases, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is used to treat severe forms of depression. Studies have shown that ECT is an effective short-term treatment for depression.14, 15
Other Treatment Choices
Counseling has been proved to help prevent and treat depression during pregnancy and after childbirth.1 Experts recommend that both parents participate to improve treatment success.6, 11Cognitive-behavioral therapy and interpersonal counseling are well-proven PPD treatments.8, 9 In one study, cognitive-behavioral counseling proved to be as effective as medicine for mild postpartum depression.8
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps you take charge of the way you think and feel. In one study, women with PPD improved after one cognitive-behavioral counseling session and showed significantly greater improvement after six sessions.8
- Interpersonal counseling (focusing on your relationships and the personal adjustments of having a new baby) provides emotional support and help with problem solving and goal setting. In one study, more women recovered from PPD after 12 interpersonal counseling sessions than did those who had no counseling.9
- Light therapy can be used to treat depression, and it does not have severe side effects. Studies have shown that it improves depression during pregnancy, winter-related depression (seasonal affective disorder), and general depression.16 It has not yet been widely studied for postpartum depression. For light therapy, you sit in front of a high-intensity (2,500 to 10,000 lux) fluorescent lamp every morning, gradually building up to 1 to 2 hours a day.
- Parent coaching offers both education and support for handling baby care and problems as well as for the personal and couple transition into parenthood.
- Infant massage classes teach you skills for physically and emotionally bonding with your baby and give you a chance to spend time with other postpartum mothers.
What To Think About
Counseling and support are considered a first-line treatment for mild to severe PPD. Women with mild PPD are likely to benefit from counseling alone. Women with moderate to severe PPD are advised to combine counseling with antidepressant medicine.6