Postpartum depression and addiction are more common than people think. When people think about motherhood, it can seem like it is all roses and cute babies. The truth is, many mothers struggle with anxiety, depression, fears, worries, isolation, and biological factors that change their bodies immensely. Women with postpartum depression are at a higher risk for substance abuse compared with postpartum women without depressive symptoms. Women with a history of substance abuse are more likely to show symptoms of postpartum depression. Find out what women are most at risk and how to support a loved one struggling with postpartum depression and addiction. 

Why it Happens

Mothers who have babies are often overlooked when it comes to substance abuse issues. They are more likely to drink alcohol or take prescription drugs than others due to many factors. Depression is linked to substance use across the spectrum, especially amongst new mothers. Environmental factors may leave them more vulnerable to substance abuse. It can occur at any time after the baby is born in an effort to boost their mood, self-medicate, increase energy, or myriad other things. Since depression is common for people who abuse substances, the chances of a postpartum mother struggling, as well, are higher. 

Symptoms of Postpartum Depression

There are some symptoms to look for when dealing with women who are postpartum. Even though it may look different for every mother, there is a common thread for those who struggle with depression and, also, substance abuse:

  • Sudden anger or rage
  • Insomnia or oversleeping
  • Crying for no reason
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Difficulty remembering things or brain fog
  • Withdrawing from social activity
  • Difficulty bonding with baby
  • Doubting ability to care for baby or children
  • Thoughts of self-harm or harm to the baby

Some women who struggle with substance abuse had issues prior to pregnancy which was never resolved. It is also possible to relapse during the postpartum period for women in recovery. The biology of the brain and body shifts, along with needing to spend more attention and time on the new baby. Additional children add to this burden for the mother who struggles and deepens her postpartum mental health crisis. A healthcare provider should be asking how she is doing and what steps she is taking to get extra help for any postpartum issues.

Seeking Help

Even though the mother may be at risk with substance abuse issues and postpartum depression, a new baby is also at risk. Other children in the home and others with whom she interacts can be at risk. There is a great threat that substance abuse can wreak on families, particularly the mother, as she struggles to keep going every day with caretaking duties, perhaps work responsibilities, and also household management on top of it all. Healthcare providers suggest addiction intervention comes with a screening of women and new mothers for a history of substance abuse, depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues to better support the new mom. Social stigma makes it hard to ask for help. Treatment of postpartum depression and substance abuse as a co-occurring disorder is key to getting women to help. She may need outpatient or inpatient treatment for severe addiction and support from family while she attends therapy. Cognitive-behavioral therapy and individual counseling are proven methods of treating mental health issues, along with family therapy, and medication where needed. 

A Step in the Right Direction provides quality care for clients seeking support for addiction recovery. For women who struggle with postpartum issues, co-occurring substance abuse issues and lingering mental health concerns, we have therapeutic support available. We will help you detox, recover, and begin the healing journey together as a family.  For more information, sober living programs for men and women as well as recovery programs, call (877) 377-3702