Written by Samantha Carter

Society tells us many things about motherhood – that it’s the most joyous experience of a woman’s life, that mothers are the sole nurturers of their families, and that good moms, or “supermoms,” are the ones who prioritize the needs of their children above all else. What society doesn’t tell us is how to navigate through the challenges of motherhood when these difficult-to-reach ideals are not our reality.

Stigma surrounding mental health further exacerbates these appropriations for mothers who are experiencing postpartum issues. This can make it difficult for mothers to grapple with conflicting emotions about motherhood, leaving them further isolated from resources and support.

I know this because I’ve been there. As a new mother with a pre-existing mental health condition, the postpartum experience rocked my world. I wasn’t prepared for the myriad of ways that motherhood would trigger my trauma wounds and impact my mental health through a lack of sleep, seclusion, feelings of inadequacy, and more.

I wish I had known then about the complexities of postpartum mental health, how pre-existing mental illness can be exacerbated by the postpartum period, and what treatment approaches are available to help.

I can happily say now that I’ve made it through the postpartum period alive, and I know you can too. However, for all of the bumps in between, I hope this article provides you with some useful information to help you on your journey to mental wellness as a postpartum mother.

Understanding Postpartum Mental Health Disorders

It is estimated that about 85% of women experience some type of mood disturbance during the postpartum period, making it a lot more common than most people realize.

Postpartum mental health disorders encompass a range of conditions that can affect women following childbirth. The most well-known of these disorders is postpartum depression.

Postpartum Depression (PPD)

Symptoms of postpartum depression may include persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety, irritability, changes in appetite or sleep patterns, difficulty bonding with your baby, and thoughts of self-harm and/or harming your baby. It’s important to remember that admitting these scary experiences is the first step toward healing and requires immense courage and bravery.

In addition to PPD, there are a variety of other postpartum mental health disorders to be aware of.

Postpartum Anxiety

Characterized by excessive worry, fear, and nervousness, postpartum anxiety can interfere with daily functioning and contribute to feelings of overwhelm and inadequacy.

Postpartum Psychosis

A rare but serious condition, postpartum psychosis involves experiencing hallucinations, delusions, extreme mood swings, and confusion. It requires immediate medical attention as it poses a risk to both mother and baby.

Postpartum OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder)

Postpartum OCD is characterized by intrusive, repetitive thoughts or images related to the baby’s safety or well-being. Women with postpartum OCD may engage in compulsive behaviors to alleviate their anxiety. In turn, this may have an impact on their ability to effectively parent their baby.

Postpartum PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder)

Some women may develop postpartum PTSD following a traumatic childbirth experience. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares, hypervigilance, and avoidance of reminders of the traumatic event. This can make the screaming cries of an infant even more difficult to deal with.

Impact of Pre-existing Mental Illness on Postpartum Mental Health

For women with pre-existing mental illness, the postpartum period can present unique challenges. Conditions such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and eating disorders may be exacerbated by hormonal fluctuations, sleep deprivation, and the demands of caring for a newborn. Additionally, concerns about medication safety during pregnancy and breastfeeding may complicate treatment decisions for women with pre-existing mental health conditions.

Traditional Treatment Approaches for Postpartum Mental Health Disorders

Effective treatment for postpartum mental health disorders often involves a combination of different approaches that are tailored to an individual’s needs. Traditional treatment options may include talk therapy and/or medication.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), interpersonal therapy (IPT), and other forms of talk therapy can help women process their emotions, develop coping strategies, and improve communication and problem-solving skills.

Additionally, antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, and mood stabilizers may be prescribed to alleviate symptoms of postpartum depression and other mental health disorders. Still, women need to discuss the potential risks and benefits of medication with their healthcare providers, as this decision affects both mother and baby.

Alternative Treatment Approaches for Postpartum Mental Health Disorders

In addition to traditional treatment approaches, alternative therapies are a great consideration for managing a variety of postpartum mental health disorders. Some of these therapies may include the following.


Some women find acupuncture helpful for reducing stress, anxiety, and depression during the postpartum period. Studies suggest that acupuncture may help to alleviate some symptoms of PPD in women.


Neurofeedback, a non-invasive brain-mapping technique used for cognitive healing, has been shown to help reduce symptoms for a variety of postpartum mental health conditions. Neurofeedback offers a great alternative for postpartum women looking for nonpharmaceutical interventions.

Massage Therapy

Massage therapy can help promote relaxation, reduce muscle tension, and alleviate symptoms of stress and anxiety, making it a great remedy to try. If you’ve got a supportive partner, try explaining the benefits of postpartum massage to get them on board. Save yourself some time and money by getting them to do it!

Stellate Ganglion Blocks

Stellate ganglion blocks (SGB) involves injecting a local anesthetic into the stellate ganglion, a cluster of nerves in the back of the neck. Originally used for pain management, SBG has shown promise in treating symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), making it a great option for women experiencing postpartum PTSD.

Herbal Remedies

Certain herbal supplements such as St. John’s wort, omega-3 fatty acids, and lavender may have mood-stabilizing effects and be used as adjunctive treatments for postpartum depression. However, it’s important to note that herbs can sometimes interact negatively with certain medications and/or have contraindications for breastfeeding. Therefore, it’s important to speak with a healthcare practitioner before starting the use of any herbs.

Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (dTMS)

Deep TMS (dTMS) is a non-invasive procedure that uses magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells in the brain’s prefrontal cortex. This region is often implicated in depression, and dTMS aims to modulate its activity, offering relief to postpartum women who may not have otherwise responded to traditional treatment methods. Several studies have been done on the efficacy of dTMS for postpartum conditions.

Mindfulness and Meditation

Practices such as mindfulness meditation and yoga can help women cultivate self-awareness, reduce rumination, and promote emotional regulation during the postpartum period. Studies show the positive impact of mindfulness as an intervention tool for postpartum mental health disorders.

Light Therapy

Light therapy, or phototherapy, involves exposure to bright artificial light and may be beneficial for women experiencing seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or depression with a seasonal pattern during the postpartum period. While further research is needed, some studies have shown the potential benefits of light therapy for postpartum individuals.

A Holistic Approach to Postpartum Mental Health Disorders

While there are many different approaches to consider when dealing with postpartum mental health, I believe the holistic approach is the best approach. I also know that’s Plus by APN’s philosophy, as well.

In the end, all that’s important is that you get better. Therefore, it’s important to try as many different approaches as you feel comfortable with. Some additional strategies may include the following.

Support Groups

Joining a support group for mothers experiencing postpartum mental health challenges can provide validation, empathy, and practical advice from others who have been through similar experiences. There’s a lot of value in just knowing that you’re not alone.

Lifestyle Changes

Engaging in self-care activities such as regular exercise, healthy eating, getting adequate sleep, and stress management techniques can support overall mental well-being during the postpartum period (and life in general). While it’s easy to get caught up in the demands of motherhood, it’s important to remember that there is value in tending to your own needs, as well.

By combining traditional and alternative approaches, you’re more likely to see the results you’re hoping for. With time and support, you will feel better. It’s important not to give up. Your baby and the world need you.

Life After Motherhood

The postpartum period can be a difficult and vulnerable time for many. While life after motherhood will never be the same as before, there are numerous ways to navigate the associated physical, emotional, and psychological challenges.

Postpartum mental health disorders such as postpartum depression, anxiety, psychosis, OCD, and PTSD can significantly impact a woman’s well-being and her ability to care for her newborn. Therefore, women need to recognize the signs and symptoms of postpartum mental health to seek support and treatment when needed.

By continuing to talk about these very real and common conditions, we can work to destigmatize and demystify the narrative surrounding motherhood and mental health. It’s important to recognize that mothers who experience postpartum and/or other mental health disorders are still good mothers.

Through holistic approaches, we can better assist mothers as they embark on their postpartum journeys with confidence and resilience.

Remember – You’ve got this, you’re not alone, and there is life after postpartum.

Holistic Postpartum Treatment With Plus by APN

Plus by APN is a great resource to consider for treating postpartum conditions and a variety of other mental health disorders. They offer everything from in-person and virtual therapy to medication management, and alternative therapies such as dTMS, stellate ganglion blocks, neurofeedback, and more.

By working with their comprehensive treatment team, you can experience real and lasting results. Call 424.644.6486 or fill out the online contact form to speak to someone today.


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