Postpartum Depression Antidepressants (SSRIs)
Pursuing treatment for postpartum depression is a vital aspect of achieving a healthy recovery. Without treatment, women may continue to suffer endlessly with their postpartum depression symptoms. Sometimes symptoms can worsen and dramatically affect quality of life when treatment is not sought.
Medications are an important component of the overall postpartum depression treatment approach. The most commonly prescribed postpartum depression medication is an antidepressant. These medications are a longer-term treatment option which help to manage, control and eventually reduce symptoms of postpartum depression.
What are Antidepressants?
Antidepressants are a class of psychiatric medication that are prescribed by physicians to people with depression, anxiety, PTSD, and many other mood disorders including postpartum depression and its many subtypes.
Antidepressants are taken daily to correct chemical imbalances in the brain. This ultimately restores normal mood and behavioral function in those with depressive and other psychiatric symptoms.
Antidepressants were first made clinically available in the 1950’s and have since evolved into a variety of types and brands. Today, antidepressants are a commonly prescribed medication due to their efficacy in alleviating the devastating symptoms of depression.
How do Antidepressants Work?
Antidepressants are believed to work by influencing the production and function of neurotransmitters in the brain. Neurotransmitters are naturally occurring chemicals that are responsible for sending messages throughout the brain which control mood, emotions and behavior.
When chemical imbalances are triggered, such as with postpartum depression, it can cause serious and negative mood and behavioral symptoms. Antidepressants help to regulate these imbalances over time and stabilize the patient’s mood, emotions and behaviors.
Specifically, antidepressants work to help the brain become better at producing and responding to two types of neurotransmitters: serotonin and norepinephrine. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter responsible for regulating mood and emotions. Norepinephrine is a neurotransmitter often termed the “stress hormone” as it is produced in response to stressful situations. Antidepressants that control and improve serotonin are called Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs). Antidepressants that control both serotonin and norepinephrine are called Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs).
Antidepressants may take several weeks before their effect is noticeable in controlling symptoms. This is because it takes a while for the body to build up its production of neurotransmitters to levels that will influence and improve the brain’s mood and behavioral control. Over time, patients who take antidepressants will notice that their symptoms are alleviated and their quality of life improves thanks to better mood and behavior balances.
Types of Antidepressants
One type of antidepressant is specifically responsible for improving the absorption and production of serotonin. This antidepressant is called a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor or SSRI. Today, SSRIs are the primary type of antidepressant prescribed to women with postpartum depression due to their low risk of side effects, their limited effect on breastfeeding and their overall efficacy in improving symptoms.
Other types of antidepressants include:
- Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs)
- Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs)
Brands of Antidepressants
There are several brands of SSRIs available. Though they all work similarly, some women may find they have different results when taking one brand over another. The different SSRI brands are manufactured by different companies and so they may have slightly different medicinal compositions and effects.
The following are some of the top SSRI brands as well as their generic medication names:
- Celexa (citalopram)
- Cipralex, Lexapro (escitalopram)
- Luvox (fluvoxamine)
- Paxil, Seroxat (paroxetine)
- Prozac (fluoxetine)
- Zoloft, Lustral ( sertraline)
Benefits of Antidepressants
Typically a physician will recommend antidepressants for treating postpartum depression because of the known benefits of taking them for symptom relief. Here are some of the primary benefits of taking antidepressants for postpartum depression.
- Effective Symptom Relief: SSRIs are proven to be highly effective at relieving postpartum depression symptoms in many women. Though they are not a permanent solution, they can control and manage symptoms long enough to reach a full recovery.
- Limited Side Effects: Though side effects are possible with antidepressants of any kind, they are usually minor or fairly rare in SSRIs. The development of side effects often depends on the individual woman. Often switching to a different brand or type of antidepressant will reduce side effects.
- Convenience and Control: Another reason why women choose to take antidepressants for postpartum depression is out of the convenience and control of taking daily medication. Knowing that a physician has prescribed a controlled course of treatment also alleviates stress and pressure from the mother and her family who are often left feeling helpless in regards to treatment. Having a physician directly involved in treatment offers hope and support.
Many women are concerned about the outcomes and side effects of antidepressants on their ability to breastfeed. Most SSRIs are shown to be entirely safe to take while breastfeeding and will not have a negative impact on the baby. If you are concerned about taking antidepressants while breastfeeding, talk to your doctor.
It is important to take antidepressants at the same time every day for the full course of treatment. Remember that antidepressants may not take effect for several weeks. It is vital to not stop taking antidepressants without first consulting your physician or psychiatrist. If you find that your antidepressants aren’t working, consult your doctor about different types or brands that may be more suitable.
Before taking antidepressants, it’s important to be informed of the potential side effects. SSRIs in particular generally have limited or mild side effects. These may include nausea, dizziness, diarrhea, constipation, headache, decreased sex drive, weight gain and sweating among others. Discuss any concerns you have about antidepressant side effects with your doctor before taking these prescription medications.
Though antidepressants are not necessarily a permanent postpartum depression cure, they are an important aspect of managing depression symptoms and restoring quality of life.