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Postnatal Depression Treatment

Depression is totally treatable with therapeutic help that targets the unmet needs. This should change the parent’s mental and emotional attitude, guiding them out of the depressed state of mind, by removing the psychological and physical barriers to getting their emotional needs met.

If you think you or a close family member or friend is suffering from postnatal depression there are positive actions you can take today to start the recovery process. The most important message that needs to be put across to new parents suffering from PND is that the depression is temporary.

Most women will overcome their depression within six months, however in complex cases where the depression is combined with OCD it can be a lengthy process of recovery, of up to three years if they do not get the appropriate help.

Postnatal Depression Treatments

There are many innate physical and emotional needs and the cause of the postnatal depression could be from the absence of one or many of these from the sufferer’s life. Therefore, identifying the correct postnatal depression treatment will require identifying the root cause of the problem. Below are some common postnatal depression treatments, based on common or likely causes. There are also practical things that you can do, for yourself or the sufferer, which can be instrumental in helping parents to overcome PND.

If you are not sure what the cause of the postnatal depression may be then a session with an experienced therapist will help you to identify the cause and help you to start dealing with the postnatal depression. If you are trying to help someone else who you believe to be suffering from postnatal depression but do not think they will agree to therapy you can also attend a one-day course on depression counselling. This will give you the knowledge, skills and confidence to help your friend or loved one to overcome their postnatal depression.

The main thing for anyone trying to help someone dealing with postnatal depression is to stop them worrying. You have to know how to move them away from thinking negative thoughts and calm them down so they will accept challenges designed to change their current state of mind.

Going to Your Doctor

Going to your doctor is the first step in getting help with postnatal depression. It can often be the case that being diagnosed with PND from your GP can relieve a lot of the pressure on new mothers, it gives them something to blame for feeling the way they do.

Anti-depressants are still widely used in the treatment of PND but there are serious concerns about breast-feeding whilst taking them as some of the chemicals will find its way into the baby’s milk, and the side effects of these drugs can be worse than the depression. A therapeutic postnatal depression treatment is much more beneficial in the short and long term for both the mother and the baby.

If the symptoms aren’t too severe to begin with, the mother is usually referred for counselling. Ideally, this will be in the form of solution focused counselling, like the approach taken by Human Givens practitioners: pragmatic and practical in teaching the sufferer the skills she needs to overcome her depression.


PND sufferers will often be hyper-aroused and therefore not able to think straight, so you can help with postnatal depression treatment by encouraging yourself/the sufferer to relax. A therapist can teach the sufferer powerful self-help relaxation techniques. Alternatively you can buy relaxation CDs and books, to help the PND sufferer to relax.


Exercise is useful for lifting any type of depression and is also good for helping to reduce stress levels. This can be particularly important if negative self-image or loss of control of her own body, are causes of a mother’s postnatal depression.

It is likely that the sufferer will not be inclined to do exercise and it will take coaxing to encourage this. Taking regular walks with the sufferer and the baby is a good way to introduce exercise into their routine, be it daily or weekly. Suggesting that they attend postnatal exercise classes at the local gym, so they can mix with other new mothers as well, is another way to gently introduce exercise into a new mother’s routine.

Connecting with other People

If the sufferer is feeling isolated and/or trapped then they need to be reintegrated into the community. This cause of PND is usually associated with the mother as she will not be at work and could very easily not leave her home for quite a long time. However, this can also be a cause of postnatal depression in men.

Either way the sufferer needs to be encouraged to interact with other members of their community on a regular basis. This could start with friends or family popping around for a cup of tea and be expanded into going to a new parents support group or activity. Equally, each parent should have the opportunity to socialise with their friends with and without the baby.

Time to Rest

A mother will need a break from the baby every now and then to rest and recharge her batteries. Reassure her that this is allowed and a healthy thing to do. Ideally the baby’s father or a close family member that the mother trusts will be able to offer to look after the baby so that she really can relax without worrying about the care the baby is getting.

Challenging their Negative Thinking

A lot of new parents can experience negative thinking in relation to their parenting abilities, most of which is completely misplaced. For example, a lot of women find themselves feeling guilty about not being an adequate mother. This thinking needs to be challenged and put into perspective, so that they realise this is not the case. They may not meet the role of the “ideal” parent that they envisioned for themselves, but who does? This is reality.

Birth Trauma Therapy

If a mother had experienced previous difficult childbirth or birth trauma, a good therapist will quickly de-traumatise her, usually in the first session of therapy. If this was the sole cause of the post natal depression then the mother should quickly overcome PND.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) Therapy

Around 10% of women with PND will develop obsessive, compulsive behaviour. Repetitive obsessive thoughts and worries can keep the depression in place and may also cause it to become morbid in nature. Thoughts about harming their baby, for example, could keep going round and round in the mother's head, or thoughts about germs getting to the baby, and not being able to keep the baby protected from them, become overwhelming.

The therapist has to help her to get off the worry circuit and stop the development of obsessive compulsion disorder. She might only be thinking in black and white terms all the time, for example, believing she has to give all her attention to the baby continuously or obsessing about keeping the house perfectly clean all the time. She needs to be taught to have realistic expectations of what is possible and reasonable. The therapist will help her to stop catastrophising by challenging her belief that her whole life is ruined and showing her why there are still many things she can look forward to. Then work is done to rebalance her sleep patterns and learning how to focus her mind outwards, away from her feelings.

Rebalancing Sleep Patterns

Lack of deep, physically resting sleep is a considerable side-effect of postnatal depression. Depressed people always wake up tired. Sleep is divided up into two qualitatively different types: recuperative slow wave sleep and REM (rapid eye movement) dream sleep.

In normally healthy people 75% of the night is devoted to slow wave sleep and 25% to dream or REM sleep. In depression, this balance between the two types of sleep becomes hugely distorted. REM sleep expands massively and slow wave sleep gets contracted.

Both types of sleep are about maintenance. Slow wave sleep is about physical maintenance of the body and recharging us with energy and REM dream sleep is about emotional repair work (and dreaming absorbs a lot of energy). When the balance between slow wave sleep and dream sleep is massively distorted, by worrying, feelings of tiredness increase beyond a manageable level. This leaves the PND sufferer grossly overtired and feeling unstable, causing them to sink into a deep depression.

A therapist can work with PND patients to rebalance their sleep patterns, ensuring that they awake feeling re-vitalised. This is very important for helping people to overcome postnatal depression.

Find Out More About Depression Treatments

If you would like more information on how to lift post natal depression then we recommend one of our one-day training courses, Understanding the cycle of depression, or How to lift depression – a practical skills-based day, which is especially useful for GPs, counsellors, psychotherapists and other members of the medical profession. However, these courses are open to anyone, whether you are personally battling depression or simply want to help a friend or loved one who is and want to learn the skills that can help lead to effective depression treatment.

You may also find a depression self-help book valuable in helping you to understand the nature of postnatal depression and how to overcome it.