Postpartum Depression and Addiction

Content medically reviewed by Vicky Magobet, PMHNP-BC, on February 8, 2021.

You've always been told that bringing a new life into this world is a beautiful thing. The experience is supposed to be a happy celebration. Sadly, a silent presence can sully a new mother's joy. Postpartum depression is an extremely common mood disorder that many new mothers experience after giving birth.

Sadly, some new mothers turn to alcohol or drugs to cope with their intense emotions. If you're struggling, you're not alone. Here's what you should know about the pairing of postpartum depression and substance misuse and what you can do to get help.

Why Postpartum Depression Can Lead to Substance Abuse

While many new moms experience postpartum depression, few admit how bad it is. This condition isn't a character flaw or a weakness. Postpartum depression is simply a complication of giving birth. Following childbirth, a new mother's body undergoes intense hormonal fluctuations. Estrogen and progesterone levels dramatically drop. Combined with a lack of sleep, this experience can lead to chemical changes in the brain and severe mood swings, crying spells, anxiety and difficulty sleeping.

One out of every eight women experience symptoms of postpartum depression. While these feelings are normal and expected, they can progress to a point where it's difficult to cope. Substance misuse among mothers who struggle with postpartum depression may be a continuation of substance addiction. Some mothers cease drug use during pregnancy only to resume once their baby is born. However, postpartum substance misuse can also be the beginning of a new behavior. They may be using these substances to:

  • Self-medicate their severe depressive symptoms.
  • Elevate their mood.
  • Relieve anxiety.
  • Help them sleep.
  • Increase their energy.

Most Commonly Abused Substances Among New Mothers

So, what substances do women turn to when addressing their postpartum depression symptoms? Commonly abused substances include the following:

  • Alcohol
  • Marijuana
  • Tobacco
  • Opioids
  • Stimulants
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Cocaine

Treating Postpartum Substance Abuse

When it comes to postpartum depression and substance use disorder, treatment requires a multidisciplinary approach. A woman's treatment must address the substance addiction and the co-occurring depression to give her the chance to overcome both these debilitating disorders. Also, each woman's circumstances are different, so a program must be highly individualized to fit their particular situation.

dual diagnosis treatment program integrates mental health professionals and addiction specialists to address the specific issues that new mothers with postpartum depression and substance use disorder face. The goal is to help these women learn the skills and strategies they need to overcome substance addiction and find relief from depressive symptoms. This form of intervention can be designed to bring the family together to help a new mother establish future goals and attain them in a realistic, productive way.

Treatment may include:

  • Withdrawal management and detox.
  • Medication for depression and other psychological conditions.
  • Individual therapy.
  • Group therapy.
  • Family counseling.
  • Educational services, such as parenting classes.
  • Participation in support groups.
  • Alumni services.

Compassionate Treatment for New Mothers

If you're struggling with overwhelming depressive symptoms and you find yourself slipping into substance misuse, help is available at Diamond House Detox. Contact us today to learn more about our evidence-based treatment programs for postpartum substance addiction.

Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner at Diamond House Detox
Vicky is a board certified Family Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, certified by the American Nurses Credentialing Center. She began her nursing career in healthcare by working in the intensive care unit, and then an inpatient psychiatric hospital. After realizing the mental health needs of both the patients and the families she served, she became a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner. Throughout her experience working with clients, she has developed a passion for those with dual diagnoses and specializes in helping individuals recognize the issues driving their substance use. This recognition has been crucial to the individual’s success in treatment. Vicky opened Diamond House Detox so that she can address these issues early on in a therapeutic environment to allow clients to transition to the next level in their recovery.
Vicky Magobet
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