Treatments and drugs

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Treatment and recovery time vary, depending on the severity of your depression and your individual needs. If you have an underactive thyroid or an underlying illness, your doctor may treat those conditions or refer you to the appropriate specialist. Your doctor also may refer you to a mental health provider.

Baby blues

The baby blues usually fade on their own within a few days to one to two weeks. In the meantime:

  • Get as much rest as you can
  • Accept help from family and friends
  • Connect with other new moms
  • Create time to take care of yourself
  • Avoid alcohol and recreational drugs, which can make mood swings worse

Postpartum depression

Postpartum depression is often treated with psychotherapy (also called talk therapy or mental health counseling), medication or both.

  • Psychotherapy. It may help to talk through your concerns with a psychiatrist, psychologist or other mental health provider. Through therapy, you can find better ways to cope with your feelings, solve problems, set realistic goals and respond to situations in a positive way. Sometimes family or relationship therapy also helps.
  • Antidepressants. Your doctor may recommend an antidepressant. If you're breast-feeding, any medication you take will enter your breast milk. However, some antidepressants can be used during breast-feeding with little risk of side effects for your baby. Work with your doctor to weigh the potential risks and benefits of specific antidepressants.

With appropriate treatment, postpartum depression usually goes away within six months. In some cases, postpartum depression lasts much longer, becoming chronic depression. It's important to continue treatment after you begin to feel better. Stopping treatment too early may lead to a relapse.

Postpartum psychosis

Postpartum psychosis requires immediate treatment, often in the hospital. Treatment may include:

  • Medication. When your safety is assured, a combination of medications — such as antidepressants, antipsychotic medications and mood stabilizers — may be used to control your signs and symptoms.
  • Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). If your postpartum depression is severe and does not respond to medication, ECT may be recommended. During ECT, a small amount of electrical current is applied to your brain to produce brain waves similar to those that occur during a seizure. The chemical changes triggered by the electrical currents can reduce the symptoms of psychosis and depression, especially when other treatments have failed.

Treatment for postpartum psychosis can challenge a mother's ability to breast-feed. Separation from the baby makes breast-feeding difficult, and some medications used to treat postpartum psychosis aren't recommended for women who are breast-feeding. If you're experiencing postpartum psychosis, your doctor can help you work through these challenges.

Aug. 11, 2015