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The Link Between Substance Abuse & Postpartum Depression

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Motherhood is a complex journey, and the struggles of being a mom can sometimes catch you by surprise. Postpartum depression (PPD) affects countless women worldwide and is one of the most common issues new mothers face. 

For some women, addiction and postpartum depression go hand-in-hand. If you’re dealing with substance abuse and postpartum depression, we’re here for you. We’re a women-focused facility, and we believe in empowering women and providing comprehensive care for those struggling with these issues.

postpartum depression

What Is Postpartum Depression?

Postpartum Depression (PPD) is a complex mental health condition that affects women after giving birth. 

Characterized by persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety, and exhaustion, PPD often severely impacts a mother’s well-being and day-to-day life. Unlike the more common and less severe “baby blues,” which resolve within a couple of weeks, PPD symptoms are more intense and last longer, potentially stopping a new mom from functioning and caring for her baby. 

Causes of PPD include hormonal changes, psychological adjustment to motherhood, and a mom’s lifestyle. Recognizing and treating PPD restores a woman’s well-being and empowers her to care for her baby and live life to the fullest.

Symptoms of Postpartum Depression

Postpartum Depression symptoms include all of the following:

  • Persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and emptiness
  • Intense mood swings and irritability
  • Difficulty bonding with the baby
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Loss of appetite or overeating
  • Inability to sleep (insomnia) or sleeping too much
  • Overwhelming fatigue or loss of energy
  • Reduced interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
  • Severe anxiety or panic attacks
  • Thoughts of harming oneself or the baby
  • Feelings of worthlessness, shame, guilt, or inadequacy
  • Difficulty thinking clearly, concentrating, or making decisions

Risk Factors for Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression can happen to any mother, but there are some risk factors that new moms should be aware of:

  • History of Depression: Previous experience with depression, either before or during pregnancy
  • Family History: A family history of depression
  • Childhood Adversity: Experiencing abuse or adversity in childhood
  • Difficult or Traumatic Birth: Undergoing a challenging or traumatic birth experience
  • Previous Pregnancy Problems: Issues with previous pregnancies or births
  • Lack of Support: Minimal support from family, friends, or partner
  • Domestic Violence: Current or past experiences of domestic violence
  • Life Stressors: Relationship struggles, financial difficulties, or other stressful life events
  • Young Age: Being under the age of 20
  • Breastfeeding Challenges: Difficulties with breastfeeding
  • Premature Birth/Special Needs: Having a baby born prematurely or with special health care needs
  • Unplanned Pregnancy: Experiencing an unplanned pregnancy

Postpartum Depression and Substance Abuse

Postpartum depression and drug addiction can sometimes form a vicious cycle. Women experiencing postpartum depression may turn to substance use as a coping mechanism for their overwhelming emotions and stress. Unfortunately, substance abuse also often exacerbates the symptoms of depression, creating a destructive cycle. Commonly abused substances include prescription medications, alcohol, and illicit drugs. 

The dual presence of postpartum depression and substance abuse calls for a comprehensive approach to treatment, addressing both the mental health and substance use issues simultaneously. With the right treatment plan and support, a struggling mom can make a full recovery.

The Incidence of Substance Abuse During Pregnancy and Postpartum

The prevalence of substance abuse during pregnancy and the postpartum period is a critical public health issue. According to 2019 self-reported data, about 7% of women used prescription opioid pain relievers during pregnancy, with 1 in 5 of these women misusing them. There was also a significant increase in opioid-related diagnoses at delivery, with a 131% rise from 2010 to 2017

In addition, neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), which occurs in newborns due to opioid exposure, affected about six newborns per 1,000 hospital stays in 2020, marking an 82% increase from 2010 to 2017. These statistics highlight the urgent need for focused support for new moms struggling with postpartum depression and substance abuse.

How Substance Abuse Can Affect a New Baby

Substance abuse by a new mother often has significant and lasting effects on her baby. Exposure to substances like alcohol, illicit drugs, or certain prescription medications during pregnancy may lead to developmental issues, birth defects, and NAS, which can cause a baby to experience withdrawal symptoms after birth. 

After birth, substance abuse may stop a mother from providing care for her child, leading to accidents or neglect. Additionally, substance abuse hinders the emotional bonding process between mother and child, stunting the baby’s emotional and psychological development. 

For these reasons and more, treatment for substance abuse can save lives. Never feel afraid to reach out and get help if you struggle with substance abuse. It’s always worth it for you and your baby.

Healthy Ways to Manage Postpartum Depression Symptoms

Managing symptoms of postpartum depression and addiction in healthy ways keeps your recovery process on track. Start with a support system; every mom needs a network of family, friends, and healthcare providers. Engaging in regular physical activity and maintaining a nutritious diet may also significantly improve mood and overall well-being. In addition, mindfulness practices like meditation, yoga, and deep breathing exercises may reduce some stress and anxiety. 

Finally, seeking therapy, whether individual or group, is one of the best decisions for a mom struggling with PPD and substance abuse. Therapy provides a safe space for exploring emotions and developing coping strategies. 

Treatment Approaches for Postpartum Depression and Substance Abuse

Treating postpartum depression and substance abuse involves a multifaceted approach that addresses both conditions. Treatment typically involves a combination of psychotherapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or interpersonal therapy, and medication management, if appropriate. 

For substance abuse, detoxification and rehabilitation programs might be necessary, along with ongoing counseling and support for recovery. Collaboration between healthcare providers, including mental health professionals and addiction specialists, helps women get the  comprehensive care and support they need for recovery.

Where Can I Find Help?

At New Directions for Women, we bring you compassionate, evidence-based postpartum depression and addiction treatment. Find healing in a women-only facility where struggling moms can find a nurturing environment for the journey towards recovery and well-being.

If you or someone you know is struggling with postpartum depression and substance abuse, reach out to us today. We’re here for you no matter where you are in your recovery journey.

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