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Post Partum Depression and Mental Health Treatment

Post-partum depression, including symptoms of severe depression and anxiety, affect 29.2% of pregnant people. However, a further 16.5% of all people who give birth experience ongoing symptoms of depression for 6-24 months after giving birth. That depression, which can be considerable, can also continue to spiral, resulting in long-term and even permanent disability if not treated. In fact, without treatment, about 5% of total people who give birth experience postpartum depression at a checkup point 3 years after giving birth.

That’s in stark contrast to “the baby blues”, a similar syndrome, which is almost always milder and normally goes away within a few weeks. In fact, as many as 85% of all people giving birth experience the “baby blues”. If you feel a little down or depressed in the early weeks after pregnancy, that’s perfectly normal. In fact, it’s more normal to experience some depression. Getting counseling and support for that, even if it isn’t ongoing, may be important. However, if depression lasts more than a few weeks, it becomes even more important to seek out mental health treatment.

At Compassion Recovery, we use evidence-based therapy and treatment to help people learn to cope with depression and to get past it – so they can move on with their lives after pregnancy.

What is Postpartum Depression?

Postpartum depression, sometimes called postnatal depression, is a term used to cover mental health disorders which primarily impact women and pregnant persons after childbirth, but which can also impact the other parent. In fact, about 1 in 10 parents who did not give birth experience postpartum depression or anxiety as well. While this often lacks the same hormonal pressure as postpartum depression following gestation, it can be equally debilitating and equally pushed by changes in hormones, changes in expectations, and changes in how you live.

Childbirth and caring for a baby can result in an immense amount of stress, pressure, and sudden life changes. It’s natural that many people will react to this, and the resulting hormonal shifts, with changes in mood and behavior. And, in the case of your brain, it may react by failing to produce or absorb enough serotonin to allow you to function in a “normal” happy manner.

Symptoms of Postpartum Depression

Post-partum depression cannot be diagnosed until at least 2 weeks after childbirth occurs. Here, if you have moderate to severe “baby blues” or post-natal depression, you may receive a diagnosis for postpartum depression.

This is characterized by symptoms like:

  • Directed anxiety (E.g., fear of being inadequate, fear of being unable to care for the baby, fear of being unable to bond with the baby, fear of not loving the baby, fear of losing a relationship with the other partner, etc.)
  • General sadness
  • General anxiety
  • Feelings of worthlessness or low self esteem
  • Anger and irritability
  • Fatigue or decreased energy
  • Feeling lonely
  • Feeling empty
  • Mood swings
  • Restlessness
  • Decreases in self-care and grooming
  • Decreased interest in hobbies, social activities, sex, etc.
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia

These symptoms overlap with “classic” depression, which is why most doctors and psychologists will interview you about your past mental health and habits before diagnosing postpartum depression. For example, you may already have been depressed.

At the same time, post-partum depression is extremely common. The stress of caring for a baby is massive. Hormonal changes following pregnancy and childbirth are massive. Feeling depression and anxiety, even if it’s significant worry you won’t be a good parent, is normal. Getting help will allow you to tackle those feelings so you can get better, feel better, and be there for your baby.

What Causes Postnatal Depression

Postpartum or postnatal depression is the result of a wide range of risk factors, which can vary significantly from person to person. For example, while postpartum anxiety and depression are most-often attributed to the hormonal changes. However, while reproductive hormones play a large role in postpartum depression, they aren’t the only cause. In addition, many of the reproductive hormones contributing to postpartum depression can be triggered by non-gestational activities – such as the knowledge that you have a baby. This means that while reproductive hormones are far from the only risk factor for postpartum depression, non-child-bearing parents can experience postnatal depression for the same reason.

In addition, factors like previous history of mental health problems, economic conditions, social support like family members to help with childcare, and even a history of positive relationships with family can all impact risks of postpartum depression.

Risk Factors:

  • Loss of sleep or inability to sleep
  • High level of stress (e.g., spending all your free time managing or participating in childcare)
  • Poor or lack of support from friends, family, or a partner
  • Financial stress
  • Feelings of being overwhelmed
  • Birth-related trauma
  • Unstable personal and family relationships or a history of such
  • Relationship stress
  • A family history of mental health problems, especially bipolar disorder
  • A past history of trauma
  • An existing partner already having been diagnosed with post-partum depression
  • Having experienced post-partum depression in the past
  • Chronic illnesses
  • Inflammatory illnesses (rheumatism, irritable bowel syndrome, Chron’s disease)
  • Oxytocin administered during labor

Eventually, there is no single cause for post-natal depression. You could have none of these risk factors and still end up with depression. You could have any combination of them, in whatever quantity. Therefore, postpartum depression must be evaluated and treated on an individual basis, with significant personalization of treatment to the specific patient.

At Compassion Recovery, we’re ready to deliver that with full personalization across partial hospitalization, outpatient, and even virtual treatment for postpartum depression.

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Getting Help for Post-Partum Depression at Compassion Recovery

Compassion Recovery delivers evidence-based treatment for mental health, including cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, group therapy, counseling, and complementary therapies. Each of these are tailored to your specific needs and brought into the program as they benefit you and your recovery.

photo of people during Cognitive behavioral therapy
CBT

Cognitive behavioral therapy is ideal for treating post-partum depression in cases where individuals struggle with myths of motherhood, idealized versions of themselves, and fear of not being good enough. This therapy helps individuals to assess and tackle underlying problems and behaviors and to build healthier behaviors in their place. CBT is especially helpful for individuals with a longer history of mental health problems, because it can help you to undo the mindsets contributing to depression.

photo of a female client with a psychologist during Interpersonal Therapy
Interpersonal Therapy

Interpersonal therapy allows you to discuss problems and goals with your therapist in a one-on-one setting, to help define where problems come from, what underlying issues are, and how to move forward from there. Interpersonal Therapy or IPT is considered to be one of the better therapy options for treating post-partum depression not linked to a history of mental health problems – with reductions of symptoms as high as 50% over a 12 week course of therapy.

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Group Therapy

Social and psychosocial interventions are as effective at treating post-partum depression as cognitive therapy. That means the implementation of group therapy and counseling is crucial to any post-partum depression treatment plan.

a beautiful young woman together with a psychologist during her intensive outpatient treatment
Counseling

Counseling is the primary intervention for post-partum depression and the first line of treatment for it. At Compassion Recovery, we deliver counseling as the initial core of the program and then supplement with behavioral therapy, group therapy, and complementary therapies as needed.

Most treatment programs at Compassion Recovery will include a blend of all four of these interventions – allowing you to get the most relevant support, at the moment it’s needed.

How Can I Get Help at Compassion Recovery?

Compassion Recovery offers mental health services for post-partum depression in partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient, outpatient, and virtual treatment. That gives you the most options to choose something that meets your needs and responsibilities.

Partial Hospitalization

You can choose to stay at our facility for 30-90 days of treatment – with daily touchpoints with staff, daily monitoring, and 24/7 support from staff. This option is not feasible for most parents of young children, but for those with extreme burnouts, may be necessary to get back on your feet.

Intensive Outpatient

Intensive outpatient programs deliver 9-30 hours of treatment, with daily visits to our clinic in Orange County. Here, programs are built around your schedule, with morning, night, or weekend therapy – giving you the opportunity to fit treatment into your busy life.

Virtual

Telehealth services allow us to deliver mental health treatment to you in the privacy of your own home, without requiring you to travel, find a sitter, or spend time required for care activities on either. This can be most convenient for parents of very young children. In fact, it’s the most recommended treatment approach for individuals living in rural areas or for those without convenient access to transportation, because telehealth mental health services result in measurable improvements to symptoms of depression.

Eventually, post-partum depression is an incredibly serious mental health disorder. While, for some of us, it goes away on its own, for others, it lasts for years after pregnancy – impacting quality of life, quality of relationships, and even physical health.

If you or a loved one is struggling, there is help.

Contact Compassion Recovery for a free consultation, or more information on how you can move into treatment with us.