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Postpartum Depression (cont.)

Exams and Tests

For part of your postpartum checkup, your doctor typically asks you about your moods and emotions.

Your doctor may check your thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) levels to make sure a thyroid problem isn't causing any depression symptoms.

Early detection

If you have had depression, postpartum depression, or postpartum psychosis before, are now pregnant and have depression, or have bipolar disorder, ask your doctor and family members to watch you closely. Some experts suggest that high-risk women have their first postnatal checkup 3 or 4 weeks after childbirth, rather than the usual 6 weeks.

Treatment Overview

Talk to your doctor about your symptoms, and together you can decide what type of treatment is right for you.

Treatment choices include:

  • Counseling for both you and your partner. Counseling can give you emotional support and help with problem solving and goal setting. For more information, see Other Treatment.
  • Antidepressant medicine. It relieves symptoms of postpartum depression for most women. For more information, see Medications.

Women with moderate to severe postpartum depression are advised to combine counseling with antidepressant medicine. Women with mild depression are likely to benefit from counseling alone.

You may also benefit from:

  • A part-time or full-time mother's helper.
  • Parent coaching or infant massage classes, for strengthening mother-baby attachment.

How long do you need to take antidepressant medicine?

Antidepressants are typically used for 6 months or longer, first to treat postpartum depression and then to prevent a relapse of symptoms.

To prevent a relapse, your doctor may recommend that you take medicine for up to a year before considering tapering off of it. Women who have had several bouts of depression may need to take medicine for a long time.

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