Stephanie held in her arms a new-born bundle of joy – so why wasn’t she feeling joyful? In fact, she was feeling quite the opposite. As she rocked little Henry to sleep, she eyed the liquor cabinet she had been visiting more and more often since he was born. She kept trying to numb her sadness, but couldn’t make it go away.
“What’s wrong with me?” she thought.
PPD and Substance Abuse
Stephanie is among the nearly 15 percent of mothers who experience postpartum depression (PPD).
PPD typically affects women from two weeks to a year following the birth of a child. It’s a type of major depression, Stephanie (and women like her) is likely to experience symptoms similar to a major depressive disorder. She may also feel resentment about becoming pregnant, show little-to-no interest in caring for her child or become angry at her child or the father.
Researchers found that PPD symptoms are common among substance users and those with a substance use history (19.7- 46 percent). They also linked a risk of substance abuse to depressive disorders, such as PPD.
So, what does this research mean for women like Stephanie? Moms require special treatment and intervention to protect them from these high risks. Depression can reduce women’s ability to care for their children and have a huge impact on the health of both mom and baby. If not dealt with properly, a perfect storm of PPD and substance abuse can result in disaster. In addition to mom’s suffering, babies in this situation are at a much greater risk of neglect and abuse.
So what kind of help should Stephanie receive? The complex combination of PPD and substance abuse requires treatment to address all the specific issues each mom experiences. Studies show that treatment for postpartum women should build self-efficacy, include children and integrate infant and early-childhood training.
To get moms the help they need, experts recommend an integrated treatment approach. This method uses a multidisciplinary team made up of many different health professionals and specialists to target all the necessary areas.
A healthy, integrated approach generally includes the following essential elements:
- Case management services
- Medical treatment for any medical conditions
- Withdrawal management, if needed
- Family counseling
- Individual and/or group therapy
- Educational services
- Participation in social support groups such as 12-Step programs
- Other specialized forms of counseling or treatment needed, such as social services, vocational rehabilitation, or mentoring services
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