Management, Treatment and Supports
Depression affects your body, mind, thinking, emotions, behaviours, and habits. A combination of self help strategies, counselling, group support, and medication is often the best way to treat a depression.
How to Help Yourself
Ask for help from your health care providers. Tell your health care provider or public health nurse about how you are feeling. They should support your care. One treatment may include local support groups who know about the feelings you are having. Other treatments could be individual counselling, and, sometimes, medication. You will probably be able to continue breastfeeding while using medication. Ask for help from your friends, family, and community.
Mothers who have had postpartum depression report that having a strong circle of supportive people helped them recover. If possible, talk to your partner about how you are feeling. Talk with someone you trust and who you think will understand your feelings. It is also a good idea to find a support network, such as a mother‑child group.
Treatment Choices for Depression:
As a first step in treating your depression, there are some simple, basic changes that you can make that are all important ways to care for your health and mental well‑being:
- Eat a healthy diet
- Be physically active every day. Take a daily walk with your baby.
- Try to get enough sleep. Sleep while your baby naps.
- Manage stress. Have a friend over, and keep contact with friends.
- Use relaxation techniques. Try using some that worked for you during labour.
- Take regular breaks. Ask your partner, family members, or a babysitter to care for your baby so that you can take regular breaks.
Setting a personal goal of how you are going to take care of yourself will help you make a commitment to yourself. The BC Women’s Hospital Reproductive Mental Health Program has developed a tool to help you to take care of yourself. The tool is called “Self Care Program for Women with Postpartum Depression and Anxiety" and is available to download for free or purchase from the bookstore.
Some women will see an improvement in how they feel by trying the steps above. Other women will require medications to be able to start taking even the basic steps towards better sleep or emotional health.
For those with mild depression, there are different types of therapy, counselling and support is available for you. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT), Supportive Counselling, Group Therapy, and Couple Therapy can be very helpful. These techniques may be used with medications in moderate or severe depression.
Talking with your family doctor or other health care provider will help you to decide what approach will work best for you. If you are employed, check to see if you have an employee assistance program that offers a number of free counselling services.
Peer Support Groups
A peer support group can help you connect with other women who are experiencing similar feelings. These groups are usually led by a trained facilitator. A peer support group can provide a safe place for you to make new friends, get emotional support, and learn strategies to help you cope during this challenging time in your life. To find a peer support group near you, visit the Pacific Postpartum Support Society website.
Some women with postpartum depression have experienced an improvement in their symptoms after exposure to bright, artificial light (10,000 lux, or the equivalent of being outside on the beach on a sunny day). These are non‑tanning lights! It is important to check with your health care provider before trying this especially if you are taking any medications. Some make your skin and eyes sensitive.
Medication (with Self‑Help Strategies and Psychotherapy/Counselling)
There is some controversy among professionals of medications during pregnancy. Talk with your health care provider about whether using medication is right for you. He or she will discuss the risks and benefits of using various types of medications, and the risks of untreated depression. If you are already on medication, you should not stop taking your medication without consulting your healthcare provider.
Alternative or Complementary Therapies
There has been little research on the use of alternative or complementary therapies in perinatal depression. Alternative or complementary therapies can include herbal products, large doses of vitamin and mineral supplements, and therapies such as acupuncture, massage or aromatherapy. Caution is recommended before choosing to use any alternative or complementary therapies. It is strongly recommended to speak with your health care provider before trying any so you can make the decision together.
It is also important to speak with your health care provider about using or switching alternative or complementary therapies especially if you have been taking medications. Many medications require a slow withdrawal.
Where to Get Help?
If you are experiencing any of the above signs, seek help. There are many resources and supports available to help you.
- Your health care provider or public health nurse
- Community family services or resource centre
- HealthLink BC (dial 8-1-1) or toll free for deaf/hearing‑impaired at 1‑866‑889‑4700
- Pacific Postpartum Support Society (604‑255‑7999)
- Your Psychiatrist
- Your workplace “Employee Assistance Program”
- Registered Psychologist (Referral line 1‑800‑730‑0522)
- Registered Clinical Counsellor (Referral line 1‑800‑909‑6303)
- Local support groups
- Reproductive Mental Health Program (604‑875‑2025 or 604‑806‑8589)
- BC Mental Health Information Line (604‑669‑7600 or 1‑800‑661‑2121)
- Mood Disorders Association (604‑873‑0103)