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It’s natural to experience mood changes after having a baby.

Physical changes, coupled with all of the other adjustments that mom and dad must make, are bound to contribute to mood swings. But if the crying, feeling down, irritability, or other symptoms of postpartum depression, anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive disorder last longer than a couple of weeks, it’s time to talk to a healthcare provider. It is important to seek help immediately if you or a new parent you know is experiencing symptoms of bipolar disorder or psychosis. There are effective treatments including interpersonal therapy, mother-infant psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness-based stress reduction, medication, and other therapies

Interpersonal therapy (IPT)

Interpersonal therapy (IPT) is a brief, structured therapy that lasts for 12 to 16 weeks. It focuses on helping you understand the quality of relationships and how these relationships affect mental health. It can be used alone or in combination with antidepressant medication. This well-validated approach is focused on treating both the relationships and the symptoms of depression. It also reduces isolation and provides social support. Researchers are studying a variation of IPT facilitated by psychotherapists in group therapy. Early studies are showing that this is a promising new approach.

Cognitive behavioral therapy

CBT focuses on retraining thoughts and behaviors that may contribute to depression. CBT is often short term, requiring usually between 6 and 20 sessions. The goal is to teach specific skills to solve current difficulties and prevent future problems. The therapy helps you identify negative thought patterns and teaches you to become aware of how thinking influences feeling. Behaviors, too, are addressed. You are encouraged to try out new behaviors while avoiding negative thoughts that can influence behavior. CBT is used for many mood and anxiety disorders, including depression and PTSD.

Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR)

This stress reduction course is an 8- to 10-week group-based educational program introduced more than 30 years ago at University of Massachusetts Medical School and now offered at many locations nationally. Mindfulness approaches are based on Buddhist philosophy and teach you to become aware of your mental and physiological experience and achieve a sense of calm, relaxation, and acceptance. It is being used effectively in conjunction with CBT.


Antidepressant medication can effectively reduce symptoms quickly in many people. Getting relief is important, because untreated mood disorders have significant negative effects on children’s development. But there also may be side effects from using prescribed medication to treat mood disorders. Some mothers are concerned about excreting medications in their breast milk. Some antidepressant medications can be passed on to an infant in very small amounts.

When considering medication, it is important to weigh all of the potential risks and benefits with your healthcare provider. No medication should ever be taken without the advice and knowledge of your physician.


Though considered a complementary therapy in the United States, acupuncture is one of the oldest healing practices in the world. The activation of specific points on the body is thought to help restore and maintain health. In one study, for example, researchers found that a small group of PTSD patients who received acupuncture for 12 weeks showed benefits similar to another group who received 12 weeks of cognitive behavioral therapy.

There are no studies yet of acupuncture specifically for postpartum mood disorders, but based on promising results with other mood disorders, it may be a therapeutic approach to explore in conjunction with help from a healthcare provider.

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