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Expert video

Kathleen Mahoney is a perinatal clinical nurse specialist at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. She shares her knowledge with women and families who may be concerned about a perinatal mood disorder. (Read the video transcript.)

A variety of treatment options is available for women experiencing postpartum depression and other perinatal mood disorders. As with any medical condition, the best individual course of treatment can be determined through active, open dialogue with a qualified medical professional.

Support Groups

Support groups are comprised of women experiencing similar problems, led by knowledgeable professionals and volunteers who listen with understanding and compassion. There are many support groups throughout New Jersey for women who have postpartum depression. Support groups and self-help groups can be effective for women with mild, moderate or severe symptoms of PPD. A woman may join a support gorup in addition to getting help from a physician or other healthcare professional.


Psychotherapy is another word for "talk therapy." Women in these treatment programs meet with mental health care specialists to talk about their depression, mood swings and other feelings caused by their postpartum depression. Therapists teach patients skills to manage their feelings and cope with their problems.

There are four main types of psychotherapists:

  • Psychiatrists
  • Psychologists
  • Advanced Practice Nurses
  • Social Workers

A psychiatrist is a physician who has completed additional preparation beyond medical school in a residency program. Usually this residency requires a minimum of four years and includes experiences with children and adults. There is a voluntary national certification program - known as "board certification" - for psychiatrists. Psychiatrists are able to prescribe medication.

Psychologists spend an average of seven years in graduate education, training and research before receiving a doctoral degree (either Ph.D. or Psy.D.) in clinical psychology or health psychology. In addition, they spend on pre-doctoral and one post-doctoral year in a clinical internship in a hospital or organized health setting before becoming licensed to provide services to the public. Psychologists cannot prescribe medication.

Advanced Practice Nurses
An advanced practice nurse is first educated as a registered professional nurse. He or she then receives additional graduate education in psychiatric mental health nursing at the masters or doctoral level, and is certified by the American Nurses' Association. In New Jersey, advanced practice nurses can prescribe medication.

Social Workers
A social worker has a masters or doctoral degree that includes supervised clinical courses. Social workers also have a voluntary certification process. Other titles for social workers include licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) and clinical social worker (CSW). Social workers cannot prescribe medication.

Selecting a Psychotherapist

When help from a trained, licensed professsional is needed, the patient-to-be should briefly interview the therapist by phone or face-to-face. The right match is important. A woman needs to feel comfortable with her therapist so that she can develop the open and trusting relationship needed for growth and progress.

Here are some suggested questions to guide the interview:

  • Tell me about your experience with women who have had perinatal mood disorders.
  • What type of license do you have?
  • What are your credentials and/or certifications?

Be sure to discuss fees, insurance and emergency care. Remember: mental health is an important investment in the future of the mother, her child and her family.


A range of effective medications, such as antidepressants, can be prescribed to treat postpartum depression. As with any treatment, patients should discuss the benefits and risks of medication with their obstetrician/gynecologist (OB/GYN) or family physician.





Perinatal mood disorders are treatable. But first you have to ask for help.

call the helpline 24/7 at


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Last Modified: Thursday, 12-Jul-12 11:44:42