The Relationship Between Postpartum Depression and Substance Use

Many new mothers experience symptoms of postpartum depression (PPD). Women with substance use disorder (SUD) have an increased risk of PPD. According to the Office on Women’s Health, “One in 9 new mothers has postpartum depression.” Restoration Recovery Center offers personalized treatments for women struggling with SUD and co-occurring depression.

What Is Postpartum Depression?

According to MedlinePlus, “Postpartum depression can begin anytime within the first year after childbirth.” Although researchers have not isolated the cause of PPD, “Hormonal and physical changes after birth and the stress of caring for a new baby may play a role.” If you are worried about the possibility of developing PPD, you can talk to your obstetrician (OB) or another qualified medical professional to learn more about your risks.

To meet the criteria for postpartum depression, individuals must have experienced depressive symptoms for longer than two weeks. Most new mothers with PPD report the following:

  • Mood swings
  • Restlessness
  • Feeling sad or hopeless
  • Excessive crying
  • Intrusive thoughts of self-harm or harming the baby
  • Not feeling emotionally connected to the baby
  • Lack of motivation and energy
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Changes to appetite
  • Extreme feelings of guilt or shame
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Difficulty making decisions or thinking clearly
  • Physical symptoms, including muscle aches, headaches, and stomach pain

Symptoms exist along a spectrum, and everyone reacts differently to depression. Some mothers notice only mild symptoms, while others feel disabled by severe side effects. The primary symptoms of PPD can start immediately after birth. However, in some cases, they take months or weeks to begin appearing. The severity of symptoms may fluctuate over time. If left untreated, PPD can significantly increase the risk of relapse for new mothers with a history of SUD. Early treatment is essential to reduce possible harm to the mother or baby.

Risk Factors for Developing Postpartum Depression

Any mother, regardless of age, experience, or socioeconomic status, can experience PPD. Researchers are not sure why some people develop PPD and others do not. However, multiple factors appear to play a role. For example, single women and first-time mothers are more likely to experience postpartum depression.

Other common risk factors for PPD include:

  • Bipolar disorder (BD)
  • Chronic or acute stress during pregnancy
  • Trauma
  • Genetics
  • Environmental factors
  • Unplanned or unwanted pregnancy
  • Preexisting depression and other mood disorders
  • Relationship issues or lack of spousal support
  • Concerns about being a good mother
  • Insufficient social support
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Alcohol or drug misuse
  • History of depression

How Does Postpartum Depression Increase Your Risk of Substance Misuse?

Stressors, including financial strain, lack of a support system, and preexisting mental health disorders, all contribute to the development of SUD. In addition, stress can trigger cravings in individuals in recovery from substance misuse and related issues. According to Women and Health, “National survey data suggest that new mothers have high prevalences of alcohol and illicit drug use.” In addition, “Because the postpartum period is a transitional one when new behaviors are established and old behaviors abandoned, it is a critical time to intervene.” Addiction recovery resources and rehabilitation programs can help women struggling with SUD and PPD. Early intervention and rehabilitation decrease risks to both baby and mother.

Healthy Ways to Cope With Symptoms

Maladaptive behaviors often temporarily decrease emotional or physical distress. However, in the long run, they cause even more problems. Mental health and substance misuse treatment provide new mothers with healthy coping skills by giving them access to the following:

  • Regular individual or group therapy
  • A reliable support system
  • Information on local resources that provide medical, financial, or educational support
  • Reminders to practice regular self-care
  • Mindfulness and relaxation techniques to lower stress
  • Social support in the form of parenting classes or self-help groups

Federal, state, community, and private resources exist to help new mothers overcome challenges during recovery from PPD and SUD. Mothers in recovery do not have to struggle with the symptoms alone.

Standard Treatment Options for Co-Occurring Disorders

Co-occurring mental health issues, including depressive disorders, require treatment to ensure long-term recovery. Some of the most common treatment options for individuals with SUD and dual diagnoses include:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and other forms of talk therapy
  • Prescription medication
  • Peer support
  • Alternative holistic therapies

Postpartum depression often requires a combination of treatment options when it exists alongside SUD or alcohol use disorder (AUD). New mothers can rely on Restoration Recovery Center to help them find a treatment plan that works for their schedule and provides them with the tools they need to establish healthy routines. We offer multiple levels of care to ensure everyone can find the rehabilitation program that works best for them and their current situation. Your baby will benefit from the time you spend healing from the effects of SUD and PPD.

New mothers with a history of substance misuses have a higher risk of developing postpartum depression. In addition, the opposite is accurate, and mothers diagnosed with postpartum depression have a higher risk of SUD. In some cases, substance misuse is a form of self-medication to help women who feel overwhelmed cope with depressive symptoms. The relationship between substance misuse and depression is complicated and can put women and their babies in danger. Early intervention is essential. Restoration Recovery Center offers comprehensive mental health and addiction recovery treatment for new mothers struggling with co-occurring postpartum depression. We can help you heal and recover. To learn more about our programs, call our office today at (888) 290-0925.

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