Postpartum Depression Medication

Medication Options for Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression medication is one element of the overall treatment approach to postpartum depression. Medications prescribed by a licensed health care provider are used to help reduce and manage the effects of postpartum depression symptoms for women or men who may be suffering from this condition.

Understanding PPD Medications

Postpartum depression medication is used to alter the chemical composition in the brain which is responsible for emotions, mood and behavior. The chemicals in the brain that are altered with medications are called neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are responsible for the communication of various emotional, mood and behavioral functions of the brain and body.

By taking postpartum depression medication, the mother can notice a decrease in symptoms such as anxiety, sadness and irritability as well improving symptoms like fatigue, loss of energy and loss of appetite.

Postpartum depression medication must be prescribed by the woman’s physician or psychiatrist. Different medications can be prescribed over a specific course of time as determined by the physician or psychiatrist. Postpartum depression medication is taken daily and typically takes 1-4 weeks before it starts to take a noticeable effect.

Types of Postpartum Depression Medication

There are different types of prescription medications that can be taken for postpartum depression. The type of medication prescribed largely depends on the exact set of symptoms the mother is experiencing as well as the specific type of postpartum depression she is suffering from.

Depending on the severity of the condition, doctors may prescribe two or more types of medications to be taken together. In these cases, the postpartum depression medications work on different sets of symptoms which allows the medication to completely treat symptoms.

The following are the different types of medications that may be prescribed to treat the various symptoms of postpartum depression.


Antidepressants are a class of drug that are most commonly prescribed for postpartum depression. Most antidepressants are a type called Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs). SSRIs are thought to work by improving the brain’s ability to produce and absorb serotonin more effectively. Serotonin is a natural chemical in the brain called a neurotransmitter. It is responsible for communicating messages of mood, emotion and behavior throughout the brain.

When serotonin production and absorption improves, so too does the person’s mood, which is why SSRIs are effective at treating PPD symptoms like chronic sadness, irritability and anxiousness.

Another form of antidepressant is the Norepinephrine-Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (NSRIs), which works the same way as a SSRI but also includes the neurotransmitter norepinephrine. Norepinephrine is the chemical responsible for mobilizing the brain and body into action. Other forms of antidepressants include tricyclics antidepressants (TCAs) and Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs).


In more severe cases of postpartum depression, another drug type called antipsychotics can be prescribed. These drugs address obsessive and compulsive thoughts and actions as well as hallucinations and delusions. Antipsychotic medications are also used to help reduce extreme mood swings. For this reason, antipsychotic drugs can be beneficial for women struggling with postpartum OCD or postpartum psychosis which cause severe symptoms.

Physicians may prescribe antipsychotic medications in conjunction with SSRIs in order to treat all the various symptoms of these extreme postpartum depression disorders.

Benefits of Postpartum Depression Medications

Postpartum depression medications can offer many benefits for women who are suffering from debilitating depression and anxiety symptoms.

Here are some of the benefits of postpartum depression medications.

Near-Immediate Symptom Relief

For women who are suffering from postpartum depression relief can’t come soon enough. Thankfully, starting a course of postpartum depression medications such as SSRIs can begin to take effect and relieve symptoms in approximately 1-4 weeks. Antidepressants can start working at different rates in different people and so some may experience relief even sooner.

Short-Term Treatment

Another reason why many women take antidepressants to treat postpartum depression is because they know it provides short-term treatment. Because postpartum depression eventually heals, there’s no need to be permanently taking medications to treat it.

You may find that taking medication for postpartum depression will be helpful for the first 6-12 months and then you can stop taking them once you’ve fully recovered.

Availability of Options

Because there are many different types and brands of postpartum depression medications, there are plenty of options that can be suited for each individual woman. The benefit with this is that if you experience negative side effects or no effects at all on one medication, your doctor can identify a better option for you.

Concerns About Postpartum Depression Medications

While postpartum depression medications such as antidepressants are prescribed in safe and controlled methods, some women may have concerns about how the medication will affect them if they are breastfeeding.

SSRIs, in particular, are thought to be safe to take during breastfeeding and they should not affect or harm the baby. Other types of medications may possibly have an effect on breast milk. You should address any concerns with your doctor if you have questions about breastfeeding while taking postpartum depression medications.

Postpartum depression medications such as antidepressants or antipsychotics are prescribed as a course of treatment and therefore cannot be stopped abruptly. It is important to speak to your doctor before stopping taking prescription medications in order to prevent any possible negative side effects.