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Postpartum Depression and Substance Abuse

postpartum depression and addictionNo one knows why some women develop postpartum depression and others do not. Due to hormonal changes and lack of sleep, it’s not uncommon for new mothers to experience some level of emotional disruption. However, in some cases, serious signs of depression can continue for the long-term and will require medical care. When the experience of postpartum depression is paired with substance abuse, it is doubly important to get the kind of intensive help that will allow the mother to begin the healing process immediately, both for her sake and that of her child.

Symptoms of postpartum depression can begin at any time in the first year after giving birth. Women who struggled with depression prior to giving birth are at an increased risk for the development of postpartum depression, and women who have previously struggled with substance abuse – even if clean and sober immediately before and during pregnancy – are at increased risk of reigniting their issues with drugs and alcohol if postpartum depression becomes a problem after giving birth.

Additionally, a study published in the Journal of Women’s Health reports that women who have a past history with substance abuse have an increased risk for developing postpartum depression after giving birth, which in turn increases their chances of relapse. It’s a vicious cycle and one that must be addressed with timely and aggressive treatment to immediately stop all drug and alcohol use while helping the mother to get the mental health treatment she needs to manage the postpartum symptoms.

If a new mother in your family is struggling with the dual disorders of postpartum depression and substance abuse, don’t wait to intervene. Treatment is necessary. Call now to reserve a spot for your loved one at The Orchid.

‘Baby Blues’ vs. Postpartum Depression

In the first few weeks after giving birth, new mothers may feel weepy, experience mood swings, be depressed, or have a hard time sleeping or eating. If these symptoms pass within a few days or a week, they are generally termed the “baby blues” and are not serious nor do they require treatment. However, according to Medline Plus, these types of symptoms may be diagnosed as postpartum depression if they continue for weeks or months on end, grow serious or severe, and/or are combined with symptoms that include:


  • Severe depression
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Feelings of worthlessness as a mother
  • A lack of interest in the baby

Some mothers who experience postpartum depression also struggle with rare additional symptoms that include hallucinations or attempts to hurt themselves or the baby. If your loved one is experiencing these very serious symptoms, seek help immediately.

The Urgency of Immediate Treatment

treatmentThe first few months of a baby’s life have been shown to have a significant impact on the rest of his development in terms of his ability to bond with others and his emotional health and security. When the mother struggles with depression, studies have shown that her symptoms may negatively affect the baby’s growth and decrease his functionality in the world on a number of levels. An inability to bond with his mother in the first few months due to her struggle with depression may make it difficult for him to bond with her later, as well.

The mother, too, can suffer if she continues to endure the symptoms of postpartum depression and issues related to substance abuse without treatment. Unable to bond with her child, her depression can infect every part of her life. Additionally, substance abuse can easily turn into addiction, which can mean a host of problems including:

Problems caused by addiction:

  • Loss of her relationship due to poor behavior and lack of trust
  • Inability to support herself and her child financially
  • Chronic health problems that make it even more difficult to shake the depression symptoms
  • Loss of custody due to her inability to stop abusing drugs, resulting child neglect, or child abuse

The sooner your loved one begins treatment, the sooner she can avoid these issues or begin the processing of mending the harm done to herself and her family by addiction.

NOTE: If there is any threat or fear that harm will befall the baby or that the mother will harm herself, emergency psychological intervention is necessary. Don’t wait.

Staging an Intervention

It may be necessary to help your loved one understand just how serious the issue is and recognize why waiting to enroll in rehab for any reason is not the right choice. This may not be easy, but it is unavoidable.

You are encouraged to:

  • Gather together a very few concerned family members who know what is happening and who are able to encourage her with love.
  • Avoid judgment or guilt trips of any kind.
  • Focus on the fact that both postpartum depression and addiction are disorders that require treatment like any other medical disorder – it’s not her fault.
  • Use specific incidents to describe the danger the child is in as well as the danger posed to her own health, happiness and well-being.
  • Help her to focus on building toward a hopeful future.

Helping Your Loved One Heal From Postpartum Depression

The best way to help a new mother you care about to face the issues of postpartum depression co-occurring with drug and alcohol abuse or addiction is to enroll her in treatment immediately. A comprehensive treatment program that addresses all the issues related to her experience will be able to help her to get back on track.

She will benefit from rehabilitation that includes:

  • Medical detox, if necessary
  • Antidepressants, at least in the short-term
  • Personal therapy to address postpartum depression symptoms
  • Group therapy to gain the perspective and strength of other mothers in recovery
  • Parenting classes and support groups
  • Holistic treatments to address spiritual balance and the mind-body connection
  • Long-term aftercare support for her and her child

If you would like more information about our evidence-based rehabilitation program for women here at The Orchid, our counselors are available to talk to you now. We can answer your questions and help you begin the enrollment process for your loved one. Call today.

Where do calls go?

Calls to numbers on a specific treatment center listing will be routed to that treatment center. Calls to any general helpline will be answered or returned by one of the treatment providers listed, each of which is a paid advertiser: Rehab Media Group, Recovery Helpline, Alli Addiction Services.

By calling the helpline you agree to the terms of use. We do not receive any commission or fee that is dependent upon which treatment provider a caller chooses. There is no obligation to enter treatment.