Who Treats Postpartum Depression?

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: October 2023

Postpartum depression (PPD) is a type of depression that some parents experience after giving birth. It can make them feel sad, anxious, and overwhelmed during what is often a joyful time in their lives. There are many healthcare experts who diagnose and treat PPD.1

A combination of medicine and therapy is most often recommended to treat PPD. Antidepressants are often the first-line treatment, as they are generally safe to take when breastfeeding. Anti-anxiety drugs or sleep aids may also be prescribed. For more urgent cases, quick-acting medicine may be needed. Your healthcare provider will work with you to determine the best treatment plan.2

Obstetricians-gynecologists (ob-gyns)

Ob-gyns are medical doctors who specialize in women’s health, delivery, and immediate post-delivery care. They are trained to provide comprehensive medical care to people with a uterus. They specialize in pregnancy, childbirth, and reproductive health.1

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During your pregnancy, your ob-gyn can help identify your risk factors and educate you about the symptoms of PPD. After childbirth, they will monitor your physical and emotional well-being through postpartum check-ups. During these visits, they should check how you are coping emotionally and physically.1

If a person has signs of PPD, their ob-gyn can diagnose the condition and prescribe medicine and other treatments. They also can make referrals to mental health professionals and work with other healthcare providers.1

Midwife

A midwife is a skilled healthcare professional specializing in women's reproductive health. Some people hire a midwife to help with the childbirth process.3

Midwives are often involved in a mother’s prenatal and postpartum care. They may build strong relationships with expectant mothers. This allows them to spot changes in mood, behavior, and emotional well-being. Midwives can screen for signs of depression during routine prenatal and postpartum check-ups. Midwives can also make referrals to mental health professionals if needed.3,4

Primary care provider (PCP)

Primary care providers (PCPs) can help diagnose and treat PPD. PCPs may include family doctors, internists, and nurse practitioners (NPs). These providers can perform:5,6

  • Physical exam and medical history
  • Early detection and diagnosis
  • Medicine management
  • Treatment planning
  • Referrals to additional treatment services

Mental health professionals

Mental health professionals are trained to assess your mental health and provide treatment tailored to your needs. These professionals include psychologists, psychiatrists, licensed therapists, and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners (PMHNPs). Depending on the provider’s licensure, they can provide a range of services, including:2

  • Mental health assessment
  • Medicine management
  • Counseling and therapy
  • Education and support, with a focus on the needs of the mother

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and interpersonal therapy (IPT) are 2 common approaches that mental health professionals use to treat PPD. CBT helps you recognize and change negative thought patterns. IPT focuses on improving your relationships and social support.2

Psychiatrists are typically the only mental health professionals who can prescribe medicine.2

Support groups

Support groups can be a valuable resource for mothers experiencing PPD. Connecting with others who are going through similar challenges can reduce feelings of isolation and shame.5,6

These groups are often led by trained facilitators who can guide discussions and share coping strategies. Some support groups are held in person. Others are conducted online. This provides flexibility and allows you to participate from the comfort of your home.5,6