Surviving Postpartum Depression: Strategies And Treatment Options

Medically reviewed by Melissa Guarnaccia, LCSW
Updated February 28, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Welcoming a baby into the world can be a joyful time full of excitement and possibility. But pregnancy and childbirth can be difficult, too. If you’re experiencing the challenges of postpartum depression (PPD), it can be important to understand that you’re not alone. PPD can involve symptoms like a lack of interest in usual activities, sleep disruptions, changes in diet, and feelings of fear and anxiety. It can be managed with support from friends and family, as well as therapy, medication, and self-care. Online therapy can be a convenient choice for new parents who find it challenging to make time for in-person sessions.

Getty/MoMo Productions
You can heal from PPD symptoms

Symptoms of postpartum depression

To understand PPD and how to treat it, it can be helpful to know its symptoms. PPD can affect people in unique ways, and the symptoms that resonate with you may not apply to another person. If you experience any of the below symptoms, it’s generally recommended to speak to your doctor so that you can receive the support and treatment you deserve.

Lack of interest in activities

Many new parents report feeling less interested in the things they once enjoyed. Although a lot of these can simply be things that new parents don’t have the time for, there can be a difference between an inability to participate in activities due to time constraints and a complete lack of interest in activities that were once enjoyed. 

For example, perhaps parents used to love to play tennis on the weekends, but after the baby, they may not have the desire or energy to play. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they have postpartum depression.

Instead, this particular postpartum depression symptom can be something different. Enjoyable activities and hobbies may no longer capture the attention of a parent with postpartum depression. This might mean sex, reading, or even watching sporting events. This symptom is often accompanied by others. 

Gauging a new parent’s mental health can require the analysis of all symptoms of postpartum depression. If a parent is experiencing a lack of interest in beloved hobbies and activities, a therapist or doctor can help them determine if this is a symptom of postpartum depression.

Change in diet

Although many tend to eat more while breastfeeding, and it can be common to forget to eat as much when you have an infant, significant diet changes can indicate that postpartum depression may be present. If you notice that you are eating a lot more or much less than you did previously, postpartum depression may be a concern.

For many people, a diet change may result in a noticeable weight fluctuation. Although a person’s body weight may shift due to breastfeeding, a new lifestyle, or simply due to giving birth, weight gain or loss can indicate a drastic diet change. Tracking your intake can determine how you are eating now compared to before the baby.

Feelings of anxiety and fear 

Becoming a parent can cause significant feelings of anxiety and fear. While some of these feelings may be entirely expected, postpartum depression can bring feelings of fear that are severe and constant. Fears that come with postpartum depression often include the overall feeling of being a bad parent, perpetual thoughts about the safety or health of your child, or a fear of being alone with your baby. Many parents find their fears so excessive that they may experience panic attacks.

Sleep disruptions unrelated to the baby’s sleep schedule

Getty/Vadym Pastukh

Beyond remaining awake due to fear, those with postpartum depression often experience a general inability to sleep or stay asleep. It can make sense that when babies don’t sleep, parents may not sleep either. But this symptom usually applies to those who cannot sleep even when the baby is sleeping or under someone else’s care. It can be dangerous to live with little to no sleep, so new parents experiencing this symptom should reach out for assistance from a medical professional.

Managing postpartum depression

Once you have identified any symptoms, it can be best to consult with your doctor. They’ll likely gather more information about your symptoms and your physical condition to determine whether therapy may be the right choice for you. 

If your doctor does refer you to a mental health professional, your treatment may include psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of both. Always follow your doctor’s guidance regarding medication, and never start or stop a medication unless instructed to do so.

Postpartum depression therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is typically one of the most researched types of psychotherapy, or “talk therapy,” to treat postpartum depression. CBT usually focuses on uncovering harmful patterns of thinking, behavior, and core beliefs about the self. The aim is normally to analyze, understand, and “unlearn” them, and to find healthier ways to cope with difficulties.

You can heal from PPD symptoms

Other ways to manage postpartum depression

In addition to therapy and medication, or a combination of both, many new parents have found that there can be a variety of other ways to cope with PPD symptoms. 

Get help with errands and household chores. If possible, use a grocery delivery service or meal delivery until things get easier. Hiring someone to clean the house may be a good idea as well. If spending the money on these extras isn’t realistic, you might ask for help from family and friends. 

  • Seek out groups for new parents. Spending time with other people who can understand your challenges can be very helpful. 
  • Try to prioritize sleep and rest for yourself. Navigating this with the needs of a newborn can be challenging, but again, this may be a good time to ask for assistance from family and friends. 
  • Try not to neglect your social life. Spend time with friends by going out to dinner or coffee or just talking on the phone. Contact with the people who make you laugh can make a big difference in your mood. 
  • Eat well and find time for exercise where you can. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can empower you to be the best parent you can be and promote good mental health.
  • Try to find time for hobbies that you enjoy, or just step away to go for a walk, take a bath, read a book, or do something else that can “reset” your mental state.

Benefits of online therapy

New parents may find it challenging to attend therapy sessions in person, as this generally requires them to leave their child at home with another caregiver. It can also be difficult to find the time to visit a therapist’s office in person, which is why online therapy may be an excellent alternative. With online therapy, new parents can get the professional help they deserve from the comfort and convenience of their own homes.

Effectiveness of online therapy

A 2021 study investigated the efficacy of online therapy for postpartum depression treatment. It found that depression and anxiety symptoms usually decreased significantly following online CBT, suggesting that telehealth options may be a valid choice for new parents living with PPD.


Postpartum depression is often experienced by new parents and can come with symptoms like anxiety, diet changes, sleep disruptions, and a lack of interest in usual activities. It can be very treatable, and support from friends and family often goes a long way. Therapy and medication can also be helpful for those living with PPD. You can begin therapy with a licensed mental health professional in person or online.
Depression is treatable, and you're not alone
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