There are a number of medications for postpartum depression and your doctor can help you decide which one may be best for you. It’s important to take into account the side-effects and benefits of each medication and to be aware of which types can enter the breast milk and affect your baby. It is unlikely you will be offered medication as a single form of treatment unless you have already tried talking therapies and not found them helpful. Usually, a combination of medication, therapy and self-help is advised.
Medications you may be offered can include antidepressants, sleeping tablets, and tranquilizers. There is also an herbal alternative remedy called St. John’s Wort which has been shown to be effective in Treating Postpartum Depression.
Taking antidepressants can help increase the levels of mood-boosting chemicals in the brain and ease symptoms such as low mood, irritability, sleeplessness and lack of concentration. They have been shown to improve moderate to severe Postpartum Depression during the first few weeks in 50-70% of women, although not everyone will find them effective. If you decide that antidepressants are the right treatment, your doctor will be able to explain the benefits and side-effects to you and make sure you are aware if they will enter the breast milk or not. All anti-depressants can take between two and four weeks to start working and you will usually be advised to stay on them for a minimum of six months. If you stop taking them sooner than this, you may find that your depression returns; likewise it is also advisable not to stop taking them suddenly as this can result in unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Antidepressants are not addictive and you cannot become dependent on them.
Each type of antidepressant has different side-effects and these will be listed in the leaflet which comes in the box. Your doctor will also be able to explain the types of side-effects you may get and answer any questions you may have about how to manage them. Not everyone will get side-effects, but some people find that they are quite badly affected. Most of the side effects occur when you first start to take antidepressants, so it’s worth giving it some time to see if things settle down. If you find that you are still struggling with side-effects after a few weeks, or if they are intolerable it’s advisable to visit your doctor to see if another antidepressant might be more suitable for you. Sometimes you may need to try several different types before you find one which is right for you.
If you are breastfeeding, the most common type of antidepressant you will be offered is called a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI) Side effects from SSRI’s can include:
- Diarrhoea or constipation
- Blurred vision
- Feeling agitated
If lack of sleep is contributing to your Postpartum Depression, your doctor may offer you a short-term treatment of sleeping tablets or tranquillizers. These are only an option if you are not breastfeeding however, as they have been shown to enter the breast milk and affect the baby. Sleeping tablets can help to break the pattern of insomnia, although they can’t be taken for long periods of time as they are habit forming. Tranquillisers can be helpful if you are suffering from extreme anxiety and are finding it difficult to relax. They usually work within 30 minutes, but again can only be taken for a short period of time as they are addictive.
If you are considering taking antidepressants, sleeping tablets or tranquillizers, it’s important to bear in mind that these may interact with any other medications you may be taking for physical or mental health problems. Your doctor will be able to discuss how the combination of medications will affect you and make you aware of any new side-effects to look out for.
If you do not wish to take prescribed medications for Postpartum Depression, there is an herbal antidepressant remedy called St. John’s Wort which can be purchased at health food stores, pharmacies or some supermarkets. It’s been shown to be as effective as antidepressants for mild to moderate depression and people have reported fewer side-effects. St. John’s Wort can interfere with other medications however so you will need to talk to your doctor if you are taking anything else. Primarily, it can interfere with the contraceptive pill and make it less effective so to avoid an unplanned pregnancy you should employ other contraceptive methods whilst using it. There isn’t enough evidence available at the moment to determine the safety of St. John’s Wort in breastfeeding. Small amounts have been shown to enter the breast milk although the effect it can have on the baby has not been measured. It’s a good idea to talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits, don’t assume that because the product is herbal it is definitely safe.
When considering whether to take prescribed or herbal medication for postpartum depression, it can help to ask yourself the following questions:
- Would the benefits outweigh the risks and side-effects?
- Have other treatments such as talking therapies and self-help been explored?
- Does your doctor believe it would help?
- What would the impact of your untreated Postpartum Depression be for yourself and your baby?
- Do you have all the up-to-date information on the safety of medication if you are breastfeeding?
- Would it be worth trying medication for six months to see if it helps?
- Would a combination of medication along with other treatments be better?
Ultimately, it is your decision whether to take medication or not. It can be helpful to reduce the Symptoms of Postpartum Depression and give you some breathing space to adjust to the demands of being a parent. However if you decide that medication isn’t for you, there are many other treatment options available which can help you feel better.
- What is Postpartum Depression?
- Causes of Postpartum Depression
- Symptoms of Postpartum Depression
- Treatments for Postpartum Depression
- Medications for Postpartum Depression
- Postpartum Depression Statistics
- What is Paternal Postpartum Depression?