Postpartum Depression Antidepressants (SSRI)

Postpartum Depression Antidepressants

Pursuing treatment for postpartum depression is vital to a healthy recovery. Without treatment, women may suffer endlessly from postpartum depression symptoms. Sometimes symptoms can worsen and dramatically affect your quality of life if you don’t seek treatment.

Medications are a key part of treating postpartum depression. The most commonly prescribed medication is an antidepressant. These medications are a longer-term treatment option that helps manage, control and eventually reduce symptoms of postpartum depression.

What are Antidepressants?

Antidepressants are a class of psychiatric medication that physicians prescribe to people with depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other mood disorders, including postpartum depression.

Antidepressants are taken daily to correct chemical imbalances in the brain. This ultimately restores normal mood and behavioral functions.

Antidepressants were first made available in the 1950s and have since evolved into various types and brands. Today, antidepressants are commonly prescribed due to their success in alleviating the devastating symptoms of depression.

How do Antidepressants Work?

Antidepressants are believed to influence the production and function of neurotransmitters in the brain. Neurotransmitters are naturally occurring chemicals that control mood, emotions, and behavior throughout the brain.

When chemical imbalances are triggered, such as with postpartum depression, serious and negative mood and behavioral symptoms occur. Antidepressants regulate these imbalances over time and stabilize the patient’s mind and body.

Specifically, antidepressants help the brain improve at producing and responding to neurotransmitters: serotonin and norepinephrine. Serotonin regulates mood and emotions. Norepinephrine is often termed the “stress hormone” as it is produced in response to tense 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 effects are noticeable in controlling symptoms, as it takes time for the body to build up its production of neurotransmitters to levels that will improve the brain’s mood and behavioral control. Over time, patients who take antidepressants will notice that their quality of life (and their mood) improves as their symptoms dissipate.

Types of Antidepressants

Today, Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (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 effectiveness in improving symptoms.

Other types of antidepressants include:

  • Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs)
  • Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs)
  • Tricyclics

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. Different companies manufacture the different SSRI brands, so they may have slightly different medicinal makeups 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 to treat postpartum depression because they can effectively relieve many major symptoms.

Here are some of the primary benefits of taking antidepressants for postpartum depression.

  1. Effective Symptom Relief: SSRIs are 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.
  2. 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. Switching to a different brand or type of antidepressant may reduce side effects.
  3. Convenience and Control: Knowing that a physician has prescribed a controlled course of treatment alleviates stress and pressure from the mother and her family, who often feel helpless regarding treatment. Having a physician directly involved in treatment offers hope and support.

Taking Antidepressants

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 harm the baby. If you are concerned about taking antidepressants while breastfeeding, talk to your doctor.

It is important to take antidepressants simultaneously every day for the full course of treatment. Remember that antidepressants may not take effect for several weeks. It is vital not to stop taking antidepressants without first consulting your doctor. 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 know the potential side effects. SSRIs generally have limited or mild side effects. These may include nausea, dizziness, diarrhea, constipation, headache, decreased sex drive, and weight gain, among other things. Discuss your concerns about these side effects with your doctor before using SSRIs.

Though antidepressants are not necessarily a permanent postpartum depression cure, they are important for managing depression symptoms and restoring quality of life. Team
Reviewed by:Kimberly Langdon M.D.

Medical Editor

  • Fact-Checked
  • Editor

Kimberly Langdon is a Doctor of Medicine and graduated from The Ohio State University in 1991. She completed her residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at The Ohio State University Hospitals, Department of OB/GYN. Board-Certified in 1997, she is now retired from clinical practice after a long and successful career. Currently, she is the Founder and Chief Medical Officer of a Medical Device Company that is introducing patented products to treat vaginal microbial infections without the need for drugs. She is an expert in Vaginal Infections, Menstrual disorders, Menopause, and Contraception.

Written by:

Jenna Carberg was diagnosed with postpartum depression following the birth of her daughter in 2016. It was a healthy birth but in the following days, Jenna's mood changed quickly. Doctors suggested that it might be the "baby blues", but her husband Chris suggested she seek a second opinion. Jenna was diagnosed with postpartum depression and began a journey that lasted 9 long months with significant ups and downs. Jenna's mental health care and her experiences became a passion for her to share with the world. She and her husband Chris founded as a support website designed to help women suffering in silence and their loved ones.

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