Alcohol and Postpartum Depression

The term postpartum refers to the time frame following childbirth. During this time frame, many mothers experience a significant change in moods, which can be described as baby blues or potentially even Postpartum Depression.

The American Addiction Centres describesPostpartumDepression as “a manifestation of a clinical syndrome of major depressive disorder”. Sometimes, symptoms of Postpartum Depression can begin before the mother gives birth, and continues for a long time after giving birth.

While the baby blues may last from around a few days to a couple of weeks, Postpartum Depression can last from weeks to months, or even up to a year.

Mothers suffering from baby blues may experience feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or anxiety, whereas mothers suffering from Postpartum Depression will experience a range of more severe symptoms.

However, mothers who are suffering from the baby blues are more likely to develop Postpartum Depression, meaning that they should also take measures to minimise and overcome their symptoms by seeking professional support.

After a woman gives birth to her child, her hormones begin to fluctuate significantly. This will lead to a significant chemical change in the brain which can then lead to symptoms of Postpartum Depression and also Postpartum Psychosis.

Those who experience severe ranges of hormonal fluctuation in the body and the chemical changes in the brain are far less likely to bond with their child or maintain a stable routine, meaning that their behaviour will be altered significantly which can have a profound impact on them their child’s future.

Symptoms of Postpartum Depression

woman sat on living floor

It is important to recognise the signs of Postpartum Depression to be proactive and seek treatment.

Additionally, subjects should learn about the symptoms to differentiate Postpartum Depression from baby blues. However, baby blues can lead to Postpartum Depression, meaning that each of these symptoms needs to be monitored.

Symptoms of the baby blues may last from a few days to a couple of weeks. Some of the symptoms of baby blues include:

  • Anxiety
  • Sadness
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Irritability and anger
  • Nausea
  • Insomnia
  • Restlessness

Symptoms of Postpartum Depression are typically more severe and can last from a few weeks or months up to a whole year.

Some of the symptoms include but aren’t limited to:

  • Depression
  • Mood swings and erratic behaviour
  • Social isolation and withdrawal
  • Nausea or eating much more than usual
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia (sleeping too much)
  • Fatigue and lethargy
  • Bonding difficulties with baby
  • Lack of interest in previous hobbies and activities
  • Restlessness
  • Anxiety and panic attacks
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Low self-esteem
  • Suicidality
  • Intrusive thoughts about harming oneself or the baby
  • Postpartum Psychosis (hallucinations, disorientation, obsession over baby, paranoia, attempts to harm the baby)

Symptoms more often than not develop within the first few weeks of giving birth to a child. These symptoms can last as long as a year and can have a profound impact on the mother’s life, her friends and family, and especially her newborn child.

These symptoms can hold long-term effects and psychological defects on the newborn child. The inability to bond with their child and their other symptoms which can interfere with their relationship can lead to the child experiencing a significant stunt in emotional and cognitive development.

Furthermore, a mother’s depressive symptoms can affect their child’s socio-emotional development further down the line. This is largely due to a decrease in parenting habits and quality during the child’s development.

Postpartum Psychosis can also be a symptom of Postpartum Depression. Here, mothers will experience more severe symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions, agitation, erratic behaviour, paranoia, and even attempt to harm themselves or their child.

Postpartum Psychosis is a serious illness which requires medical attention.

The Destructive Relationship Between Alcohol and Postpartum Depression

wman asleep holding glass of wine

It is estimated that around 15% of women who have given birth and experienced Postpartum Depression also engaged in binge drinking during the time in which they were suffering from Postpartum Depression.

Additionally, 9% of this figure also reported consuming illicit substances to cope with their symptoms of Postpartum Depression.

This figure was significantly higher than those who either did not give birth or gave birth but experienced no symptoms of Postpartum Depression. There is a strong correlation between Postpartum Depression and Substance Use Disorder, particularly alcohol addiction.

Another survey suggests similar findings, that there is a high prevalence of  alcohol and illicit drug use among new mothers.

It was estimated that almost 15% of mothers suffering from Postpartum Depression from the ages of 15 to 44 years old reported heavy consumption of alcohol, whereas almost 9% reported having consumed illicit substances within the month that the survey was conducted.

Other studies suggested that out of the pregnant women who already suffered from pre-existing substance use disorders, such as alcohol addiction, 50% suffered from Postpartum Depression.

The effects that alcohol consumption can have on a mother and her child are significant. Not only can frequent alcohol consumption lead to developing an alcohol addiction, but alcohol consumption can also impair the mother’s ability to connect emotionally with her child. This can lead to a stunting of the mother’s ability to care for her child during their development.

Additionally, when a mother is consuming alcohol, this can lead to the baby consuming alcohol via breastfeeding. 30-60 minutes following the consumption of an alcoholic beverage, the alcohol content will be at its highest in the mother’s breast milk.

Should the baby consume this contaminated breast milk, they will suffer from lower quality sleep, and stunted cognitive development and they will be more susceptible to falling into addiction in the future.

Because of the hormonal fluctuation and also the alteration in brain chemicals, mothers will find it difficult to stick to previous habits and routines which promoted a happy and healthy life. Instead, they may find more relief in the form of addictive substances such as drugs or alcohol.

The reason that mothers suffering from Postpartum Depression are especially susceptible to falling into a drug or alcohol addiction is that they are consuming addictive substances as a way to self-medicate.

This is especially the case for those who are unemployed, or single, as they lack the support network required to cope with its symptoms. Environmental and socioeconomic factors, along with biological factors, can increase a mother’s susceptibility to developing both alcohol addiction and Postpartum Depression.

Younger mothers, particularly those who are under the age of 25, are susceptible to suffering from Postpartum Depression and alcohol addiction because their brains are not yet fully developed.

Depression, whether related to childbirth or not, is strongly linked to drug and alcohol addiction. Around 63% of patients entering a drug and alcohol rehab in England reported needing additional mental health treatment.

Alcohol in particular can temporarily relieve mothers of symptoms such as stress, anxiety, insomnia, and so on. However, frequent alcohol consumption will exacerbate these symptoms in the long term. This can lead to the development of an alcohol addiction where the mother will require treatment for her co-occurring disorders.

Further down the line, if a mother develops an alcohol addiction, they are at more of a risk of developing liver, intestinal, or breast cancer.

What is Alcohol Addiction?

Alcohol bottles

Substance Use Disorder (SUD), or drug and alcohol addiction, is a brain disease which consists of chronic relapsing.

When a subject is suffering from alcohol addiction, the neurological pathways in their brain have been altered in a way which makes the subject physically and psychologically dependent on their addictive alcoholic substance.

A subject can become addicted when they repeatedly expose themselves to an addictive substance. If a mother suffering from Postpartum Depression seeks relief from her symptoms in the form of alcohol, she is more susceptible to developing alcohol addiction.

What are the Symptoms of Alcohol Addiction?

man pouring two glasses of wine

Should a subject suddenly abstain from their addictive substance, they will experience a range of discomforting physical or psychological symptoms such as headaches, nausea, trembling, seizures, anxiety, depression, and more.

If their alcohol withdrawal is mismanaged and unsupported, it can lead to death.

Subjects addicted to alcohol will be overwhelmed with thoughts and compulsion to relapse and consume this substance once again. To overcome an alcohol addiction, patients will need to enter a drug and alcohol rehab to increase their likelihood of safe recovery.

Treating Alcohol Addiction and Postpartum Depression at Rehab

Pregnant woman

When a patient is suffering from two health conditions, in this case, drug or alcohol addiction and Postpartum Depression, a dual diagnosis will take place. A consultant psychiatrist will tailor a personalised recovery programme to optimise their recovery.

Then, patients will undergo treatment at a drug and alcohol rehab for their co-occurring disorders. Patients must receive co-occurring treatment for their co-occurring disorders because to live optimally, patients must overcome both illnesses, rather than prioritising one illness over the other.

When a patient is suffering from more than one illness, it is most likely that one is exacerbating the symptoms of the other. Often, patients suffering from alcohol addiction end up developing depression.

On the other hand, many of those who are depressed develop an alcohol addiction.

There is a clear correlation between substance use disorders and mental health conditions such as depression. Rather than choosing to treat one condition at a time, the co-occurring treatment allows patients to undergo therapy and counselling for both conditions.

Sometimes, patients will enter a drug and alcohol rehab to recover from their substance addiction, but they will not disclose that they are suffering from another form of illness because it is either stigmatised or isn’t deemed to be as severe as alcohol addiction.

Each case of addiction is different. The unique requirements of the patients will vary from one to the next.

A personalised programme will allow patients to undergo an addiction programme that will cater to their unique needs.

Some of the treatment therapies at a rehab facility include:

1. Medicated Detox & Pharmacological Intervention for Alcohol Addiction


A medicated detox is paramount for patients suffering from alcohol addiction, especially when they are suffering from co-occurring disorders.

During a medicated detox, patients will spend around 7 to 10 days at a safe and comfortable rehab facility supervised by medical professionals.

This means that they will have access to 24/7 help and support to monitor their condition during the alcohol withdrawal stage. Additionally, they will be prescribed medication to minimise symptoms safely. This is often referred to as pharmacological intervention.

The medication prescribed will vary according to the patient and their unique symptoms. Some examples of medication include but aren’t limited to Benzodiazepines, Subutex, Naltrexone, Librium-based medication, and more.

One may minimise symptoms of anxiety and insomnia whereas another may prevent a patient from suffering from seizures.

2. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

two people talking at a table

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is a widely utilised form of therapy and is most likely to be included in any comprehensive and reputable addiction treatment facility.

The purpose of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is to help patients overcome negative forms of thinking and behavioural patterns to live happier and healthier life.

In a typical session of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, patients will be discussing different aspects of their lives with a licensed counsellor. They can then proceed to identify some of the negative traits and self-destructive tendencies that the patient may have to develop healthier habits and coping mechanisms.

Not only is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy utilised to treat those suffering from alcohol addiction, but it is also often utilised to treat patients suffering from mental health problems such as anxiety, PTSD, and depression. Patients will learn how to cope with the symptoms of both of their illnesses with this form of therapy

3. Dialectical Behavioural Therapy


Dialectical Behavioural Therapy is based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. However, it is specifically catered to those who suffer from intense emotions, such as those suffering from trauma or mothers experiencing Postpartum Depression.

Many mothers suffering from Postpartum Depression experience severe forms of anxiety, agitation, mood swings, anger, and so on.

Dialectical Behavioural Therapy helps mothers develop skills related to mindfulness, and relaxation exercises, as well as reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Studies have shown that this form of therapy can be effective in helping mothers suffering from baby blues and Postpartum Depression to overcome their symptoms.

4. Family Therapy

Family in field

Family Therapy is essential in optimising recovery when undergoing addiction treatment, especially if the mother is suffering from Postpartum Depression.

It is often the case that the partner as well as other members of the family are not so well educated on the subject of Postpartum Depression, and do not know how they can help their loved one optimally.

By incorporating Family Therapy into addiction and Postpartum Depression treatment, the mother’s loved ones will learn about the complexities of her condition.

This will then help them understand what they can do to help the mother in her quest to recover from both forms of illness.

5. 12-Step Facilitation Therapy

Support groups

12-Step Facilitation Therapy is effective in helping patients maintain their recovery post-rehab. It is often included in aftercare programmes and within fellowship groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous.

The 12-Step Facilitation Therapy provides recoverers with a lifestyle guideline to help them sustain their sobriety and to prevent a relapse.

It can help mothers struggling with alcohol addiction to come to terms with their addiction and to learn and develop new coping mechanisms for their newfound lifestyle of abstinence.

By attending support sessions where this form of therapy is practised, patients will also meet newly recovered people who have the same objective as them, which can encourage social reinforcement and a stronger support network.

Residential Rehab for Co-Occurring Disorders


If a patient is suffering from co-occurring disorders, such as alcohol addiction and depression or Postpartum depression, they will be highly advised to enter a residential rehab facility.

This is because it is at a residential rehab where patients with severe conditions will receive the most optimal form of treatment.

A residential rehab requires patients to undergo addiction treatment as an inpatient. As an inpatient, patients will receive onsite accommodation while they are undergoing recovery.

This makes therapy and counselling sessions much more accessible, and patients can dedicate their entire focus towards recovery in a medically supported facility.

Those suffering from co-occurring disorders must undergo recovery as an inpatient.

Should a subject suffering from these illnesses undergo recovery as an outpatient, they will likely relapse and their alcohol addiction and Postpartum Depression will become worse. This is because they lack the support and supervision of inpatient treatment.

Entering a Rehab for Alcohol and Postpartum Depression

two people walking together

To receive treatment for alcohol addiction and any other mental health condition such as Postpartum Depression, subjects can dial the number 0800 111 4108 from the UK or +44 345 222 3509 internationally.

When you contact us at Rehab 4 Alcoholism, you will be greeted by an experienced and friendly trained admissions officer.

This admissions officer will be at the subject’s disposal to answer any questions that they have, or they can help the subject facilitate a health assessment to begin the process of entering a drug and alcohol rehab.

While it may sound intense and formal, the health assessment is merely a set of questions regarding the subject’s health history and addiction history.

By answering these questions, a team of consultant psychiatrists can help develop a personalised programme and identify a suitable drug and alcohol rehab which can meet the subject’s unique requirements.


[1] Postpartum Depression – Symptoms and Causes

[2] Mother’s Depressive Symptoms Appear to Affect Children’s Socio-Emotional Development

[3] Postpartum Psychosis – NHS

[4] The Connection Between Postpartum Depression and Substance Abuse

[5] Postpartum Substance Use and Depressive Symptoms

[6] Treating Women with Substance Use Disorders During Pregnancy

[7] Alcohol – Breastfeeding – CDC,drink%20after%20it%20is%20consumed.

[8] Adult Substance Misuse Treatment Statistics 2020 to 2021: Report

[9] Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Alcoholism

[10] The Use of Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT) Techniques Creatively in the Treatment of Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders

[11] Family Therapy for Addiction

[12] Alcohol Rehab Aftercare

[13] Residential Rehab