Treating Postpartum Depression Without Medication

Not all of us want to take antidepressants, especially during the perinatal period. Luckily, postpartum depression is highly treatable without medication.

Look, we’re not anti-medication at Prospera – in some cases, SSRIs or other medications are essential for successful mental health management. But we also understand that, for many people, medication is seen as a last resort rather than a first step. And with issues like postpartum depression and anxiety, there are many other things you can try before moving to medication.

So let’s get into it!

What defines postpartum depression (PPD)

Postpartum depression, or PPD, is a mood disorder that can start anytime during pregnancy or the first year after birth, with symptoms lasting longer than two weeks.

Those symptoms can include a lack of energy, intense feelings of sadness, periods of crying, trouble concentrating, trouble sleeping or too much sleep, and even rage. In extreme cases, women with PPD may feel the urge to harm themselves or their baby – if this is something you’re experiencing, please call or text 988 right away. Help is available.

Experts estimate that one in seven women experience PPD, which makes it extremely common. The bad news is that untreated postpartum depression can last for years, getting progressively worse as it goes on. The good news is that it’s highly treatable, even without medication.

Ways to treat PPD without medication

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)

The absolute best thing you can do for postpartum depression is get support from a mental health professional, especially one who’s trained in cognitive behavioral therapy.

Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, has been proven time and again to be an extremely effective treatment for depressive disorders, including postpartum depression. Using techniques like mood tracking and thought reframing, CBT helps us identify thought patterns that get us stuck in negative emotions, and guides us in adjusting our behavior to challenge those patterns.

Consistent emotional support and CBT can help you manage the symptoms of PPD and see noticeable improvements in your mental health within the first few weeks.

Connection with others, especially other moms

Social connection is crucial for emotional wellbeing at any time, but motherhood can be isolating at its best – when you add postpartum depression into the mix, it’s all too easy to slip into the habit of hiding away, which only worsens symptoms.

Making an effort to connect with friends and family, maybe even meet some new friends who share your stage of life and values, can do wonders for your mental health. A simple phone call or text conversation is a great place to start if you’re feeling overwhelmed, but try to work up to regular in-person meet-ups, ideally outside your home. Which leads into our next tip…

Fresh air and exercise

You’ve probably heard this one before, but it’s one of those pieces of advice that’s often repeated for a good reason: it works. Spending time outdoors, whether that’s a park or the pavement, has been proven to improve your mood, increase focus, and reduce stress – who needs that more than a mom with PPD?

Similarly, moving your body in a loving, non-punitive way has positive effects on more than just physical health. It helps cut through the fog of depression, still an anxious mind, and soothe stress. Combine it with going outside (say, if you take a walk around the block or do some mellow yoga on your back lawn) and you’re looking at a major mood boost.

Patience with yourself

This is a really tall order for most of us. After all, no sooner have we named our new baby than we’re being peppered with questions about when we’ll have the next one, whether we’re going back to work, what we plan to do to help our bodies “bounce back.”

But try, if you can, to shut out that noise and turn toward people who love and support you as you are in each new moment. The postpartum period is exhausting and stressful, but it can also be beautifully timeless, if you let it – a sort of weightless space of new baby love and unscheduled days governed by the needs of this little creature in your house.

Your body and your mind need time to recover from the huge change they’re both still processing, and pressuring yourself to move through that processing faster is actually likely to slow you down. Take care of your body, remember that your needs matter as much as your baby’s, and be kind to yourself.

If you’re experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression, we can help. At Prospera, our mental health coaches are trained in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) techniques, which are super effective for anxiety and depression.

If you could use some support (and who couldn’t?), why not give us a try? Book your free consultation today.

Content reviewed by Dr. Andrea Niles, Clinical Psychologist

Anne Godenham is a writer and editor with a passion for mental health awareness and accessibility