The Postpartum Depression Medication Maze

postpartum depression

© Fotolia – photo-Dave

I’ve been going through old files as I prepare to move to my new house this week … THIS WEEK!! … and I found something from my postpartum depression and OCD days — a medication list. I used it to keep track of what I had been taking, including dosages and side effects.

When I was first diagnosed and treated for postpartum depression, I had a psychiatrist who I’m convinced didn’t really know what he was doing. He certainly wasn’t a reproductive psychiatry expert. His approach was to throw things at the wall to see what stuck.

First, he put me on Celexa, an antidepressant, and Risperdal, an anti-psychotic that was supposed to help me sleep.

Then he switched me to Celexa and Seroquel, a different anti-psychotic to help me sleep.

When I told him that I felt so tired and without energy, he had me take Celexa, Seroquel and Wellbutrin.

Then he switched me from Celexa to Serzone — why I don’t recall — so then I was on Serzone, Seroquel and Wellbutrin.

When I told him I was sick and miserable and the Wellbutrin made me feel like a caged animal, he put me on Effexor and Seroquel.

This experience of switching and switching lasted over a period of my son’s entire first year, a year during which I was improving somewhat but still miserable, and still suffering from intrusive thoughts.

Then, instead of switching medications again, I switched psychiatrists. Woohoo! I was fortunate enough to find someone with expertise in reproductive psychiatry and postpartum depression and anxiety. She took me off of everything my first doctor had given me and put me on one medication. One. Fortunately for me, it worked.

If a similar scenario is happening to you as you try to recover from postpartum depression, please don’t believe you are a lost cause. You will find a treatment, whether it’s therapy or medication or something else entirely, that will work for you. And remember that sometimes the key is not the treatment itself, but the person who provides it.

About Katherine Stone

is the founder of Postpartum Progress. She has been named a WebMD Health Hero, one of the fiercest women in America by More magazine, and one of the top 20 Social Media Moms by Working Mother magazine. She is a survivor of postpartum OCD.

Tell Us What You Think


  1. Which SSRI worked for you? I am on week 4 of low dose zoloft for pretty severe pp anxiety and it just now seems to be working. I have been finally sleeping great for the past 2 weeks, but last night had a bad nights sleep which is frustrating – hopefully it was just one night. The night before last I slept 8 hours straight which has not happened in a VERY long time – it was wonderful : )

    I also have a wonderful Psychiatrist that I see weekly. I hope I am on the right track. Would love to hear what has worked for others.

    Good luck with the move!

  2. Thanks for the reminder that there is an answer out there. I’m dealing with PPD and anxiety for the second time and my bathroom drawer is filled with so many medication bottles I am my own pharmacy.

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  4. Theresa Mitchell says:

    I had a similar experience. My OBGYN was the first doctor I notified of my difficulty sleeping, intrusive thoughts and some unbelievably strange physical problems as well. I had no idea what the hell was going on(yes, I said Hell) I just thought I was losing my once very sane mind. And I feared for myself and baby. Anyway, she put me on Paxil and some pitiful derivative of Benadryl for sleep. HA Ha, a complete joke. Paxil was making me feel worse and I still wasn’t sleeping. That doctor was clueless. I tried my family doctor who was even more uneducated about PPD. She suggested I was bipolar, she thought the sleeplessness was mania. Another waisted visit. Thank God that about six months after the baby was born, after so much waisted time and money, I found a specialist an hour and a half from my home. Dr. Judy McKay. She made me feel like I was normal, and told me the suffering would end. She knows perinatal mood disorders better then anyone I ever knew. I just wish I found her sooner. We had to try several medications until I found the right combo. For me it was Ativan for sleep(Godsend) and Prozac. I wish I could list all the drugs I tried but I cannot remember them all. Many times it is trial and error. The entire battle lasted 18 months. I feel it would have ended sooner if my other doctors knew what they were doing. Sad.

  5. Sooo true. I went to a terrible psychiatrist first, then found a psychologist specializing in OCD (I figured out I had PPOCD, despite the psychiatrist’s useless and totally wrong diagnoses). The OCD expert was amazing and Exposure and Response Prevention did as much as any meds. I was put on Zoloft and Clonopin which gave me the chance I needed to shut my brain up and regain control but coming off Zoloft I had HORRIBLE withdrawl with debilitating, electric shock-like pains through my arms/shoulders/neck. When I started taking it, nobody told me that could happen. I now take Inositol (a B-vitamin) to help keep my brain behaving, and it’s sooo much better. Meds can be both a blessing and a nightmare and unfortunately its different for every person, so we all have to walk the road and figure it out for ourselves 🙁

  6. Having been on many medications, some alone and some in combination, I have to agree with you. I have also noticed that the best doctors, psychiatrists and general practitioners both, also check you fr anemia, thyroid imbalance, and vitamin D deficiency.

  7. Maria Gomez says:

    What was the last medication that worked for you? I had to change from Lexapro to Xolof and It worked quite well.

  8. Kristine Acker says:

    Oh wow! Thank you sou much for this piece- I am now on my 7th medication and feeling like a complete “lost cause” Your story gives me hope 🙂 Thank you for sharing and best of luck with your move!

  9. what was it she put you on?

  10. A combination of intensive therapy and support group each 2 times weekly l plus multiple meds were imperitive for my survival in the first two years along with several psych hospitalizations. Although I am seen at a major teaching hospital I needed to get 2 second opinions. These Psych Drs were able to work in conjunction with my treating psych dr. and psychologist. They are also consulting with my GP, endoconologist and ob/gyn. I too often wonder if I’ll ever get to my pre-ppd level of functioning but I am on my way bit by bit. I have a strong support system in family and friends of whom have held onto hope for me when I had lost hope for myself. For some of us recovery may take longer than for others but we too will get there. My son is turning 3 soon and I have so much to look forward to.

    • Hi guys! I had the problem where I felt like I wasn’t trusting God if I went on medication. It took me months to decide :/ I finally did and doc gave me Prozac. It has worked great for me but you definitely want to do whatever it takes. It’s a combo of things that probably makes recovery faster 🙂 I saw a counselor, support is super important, praying, and alone time was crucial. Hope you ladies keep the faith. I know how hard it was!

      • Lisa, I hear that from a lot of people. I’m glad you sought help and are getting the support you need. It’s so important for moms to know that having PPD isn’t some sign of a poor spiritual connection to God.

  11. Thanks Katherin love your site. Took a year to get proper diagnosis of PPOCD. Now I’m on a high dose of Celexa but don’t feel like it’s done the trick after 3mths. My psych says the OCD needs higher doses. Perhaps I just need to be patient. Also doing CBT which really helps. Which SSRI did end up working for you?

    • Thanks Katie! So glad you found us. I generally don’t like to talk about which med worked for me, because I think that gives people false hope that it will work for them. We are all SO different. That being said, during the PPOCD period, it was Luvox.

      • Thanks Katherine for letting me know but also being cautious about false hopes. Everyone’s chemistry and responses are definitely so different. I’m under great PPD-specific care and trust my doctor. It was mostly curiosity. Again thanks the best PPD site out there.

  12. Phoenix Fourleaf says:

    I’ve been around the bend with meds. The PPD was under reasonable control, but I continued to struggle with premenstrual dysphoric disorder. I finally insisted on seeing a psychiatrist, and she was able to figure out the right medication. I’m starting to feel like my old self again. When I wake up happy in the morning, I am still surprised and delighted to be feeling so much better. Psychiatrists are not easy to find these days, but I would recommend seeking one out. The medications are too nuanced and complex for a nurse practitioner or family doc to really understand. Save yourself time and grief and find a qualified dr. for your psych meds.

  13. First of all good for you switching psychiatrist!! unfortunatley many of the Mums I work with dont have the strength or self confidence to do this and many times are not even included in their care plan. That is until they are referred to us.

    Your probably wondering who I am? I too have suffered won, battled and won the Post Natal Depression twice. I know how hard every day chores are when suffering.
    What a fantastic means of support your page offers.

  14. silvia pamudji says:

    Hi Katherine..

    I was motivated to read your story, I feel like im going to recover 100%. I have been diagnosed with hypomnania because of insomnia and increased energy, but I just felt like I had post natal depression. anyway my shrink gave me Seroquel to help me sleep. It has helped me sleep a little bit but not too well. he gave me 25 mg, and because 25mg didn’t work said I to increase it to 50 mg. I went to another shrink and gave me citalopram and zysprexa…I stopped taking those medication cause I felt better. 6 weeks ago I had a bump in my head and I’ve been having headache since..don’t know if I should be reassessed? because I am feeling low and have trouble sleeping..I know you don’t like telling us about your last medication..but can you tell me what it is? just for a piece of mind. we don’t have pshychiatrist like yours in new do I get through this..