The Power of CBT for Postpartum Depression

This article will enlighten new mothers and their families about the effectiveness of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy as a transformative treatment for postpartum depression, offering hope and practical guidance for recovery.

postpartum depression

The Basics of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavioral therapy for postpartum depression is a popular form of evidence-based treatment.


The thoughts you have when you are depressed are different from your normal patterns of thinking. They are often heavily negative. These thoughts are unfair, incorrect, and unhelpful, leading to a direct impact on how you feel and how your body responds to you. Some examples include:

  • I should know how to take care of my baby
  • I can’t do this
  • My newborn doesn’t like me
  • My life is over
  • I am a bad mother
  • The baby will never sleep through the night
  • Things will never get better
  • This is terrible


CBT effectively targets the idea that the emotions you feel during pregnancy, like discouragement and hopelessness or a lack of connection to your baby, are because of the pattern of negative thoughts. 

Physical responses

These thoughts and emotions can impact how you physically feel, leading to symptoms like appetite changes, low energy, sleeping problems, difficulty with decision-making, and headaches. 


These thoughts can affect your behavior, and that behavior usually starts with failing to take care of yourself properly, like getting a shower every day or getting dressed. Many women have challenges finding time to take care of household tasks, and they pull away from friends and family. 

For many mothers with postpartum depression, the behaviors they start to employ as a result of the negative thought patterns make the depression symptoms worse like:

  • Choosing to stay up late because you think it’s “time for yourself.”
  • Not attending social events or mother support groups
  • Overeating or turning to drugs and alcohol to handle symptoms

CBT and Postpartum Depression

CBT and postpartum depression teach you to recognize these symptoms in yourself and to catch your negative thought patterns and change them in real-time.

Making even small changes in one part of your life will have a domino effect that causes positive changes in other areas of your life.

Postpartum depression helps you recognize that each of the thoughts, physical responses, emotions, and behaviors related to postpartum depression influence one another.

For example:

If you think that you are a terrible mother, you will likely feel hopeless and sad about that thought, and you’ll start to experience symptoms of depression like low energy. The more physical symptoms you have, the more likely it is that you will avoid going out for social events or doing activities that might be good for you, like exercising or even doing household chores and showering, because you think it will take up too much energy and you don’t derive any satisfaction from it anyway.

CBT Techniques for Postpartum Depression

There are several CBT techniques for postpartum depression that are highly effective at treating the symptoms and helping you regain control over your life. 


With CBT for postpartum depression, one technique is called the NEST-S technique. This stands for:

  • Nutrition
  • Exercise
  • Sleep
  • Time for yourself
  • Support

Many new mothers find themselves completely wrapped up in caring for their child, whether it’s their first or fifth. But dealing with postpartum depression means you have to prioritize yourself, including the things that you eat, the exercise you do, even if it is limited, and safe exercises like gentle post-delivery yoga and time for yourself.


It can be difficult to eat well after just having a baby. In fact, you might not find yourself hungry at all, but eating nutritious foods will help you complete your daily activities. Below are some questions that can help you make sure you are following nutritional guidelines:

  1.  Am I actually sitting down and stopping to eat three times a day?
  2.  Do I take time to eat a snack if I’m hungry?
  3.  Am I accepting help and having easily prepared meals on hand?
  4.  Am I trying to include at least three food groups in my meals?
  5.  Am I drinking enough water throughout the day? 


  • Take a multivitamin each day
  • Keep a water bottle with you as you move around the house so that you are more likely to stay hydrated
  • Pack healthy snacks when you leave the house, like granola bars, string cheese, and crackers
  • Use shortcuts to plan healthy meals like prepared veggies, frozen meatballs, or meat patties


The last thing you want to do after having a new baby is exercise, but exercise reduces stress and increases your mood. Even 10 minutes per day can make a significant difference. Ask yourself these questions:

  1.  How often do I exercise? Am I getting a 10-minute walk at least twice per week?
  2.  What physical activities do I do throughout the day?
  3.  What type of exercise do I enjoy the most?
  4.  What could I do that would encourage me to stay more active? 


  • Exercise with a friend, like doing stroller walks together.
  •  Find activities you can do with your baby, like a bike trailer or a baby carrier.
  •  Be consistent, even if that means shorter sessions on a regular basis.
  •  Apply the 5-minute solution where you start with 5 minutes of activity, and if, after the first 5 minutes, you think you can keep going, do so 


Sleep is important for your physical and mental well-being, and it can be difficult to find time to sleep when your sleep patterns change with a new baby. However, not getting enough sleep can worsen depression. So ask yourself these questions:

  1.  Do I sleep when the baby sleeps?
  2.  Do I ask for help so that I can get a nap when I need it?
  3.  Do I take restful breaks during the day?
  4.  Do I need more support to help my baby sleep so that I can sleep?


  •  Ask for help from a partner or friend. This might be taking over some chores so that you can take a nap earlier in the day.
  •  Create a ritual that is adjusted around the sleep patterns of your baby so that you can still do things like listen to soft music, gently stretch, or take a warm bath before you go to bed, even if that bedtime is at a completely different time of day or night than normal. 
  • Give yourself permission to rest. One way to do this is to make a to-do list for the day and give yourself permission to rest, even if some of those tasks have to be postponed until the next day.

Time for yourself

Being a mother often means you neglect time for yourself, especially during pregnancy or immediately after your baby is born. It can be difficult for mothers to develop the habit of setting time aside for themselves because it brings them feelings of guilt or depression, but self-care is a necessary part of CBT techniques for postpartum depression. Ask yourself:

  1. What activities do I enjoy the most?
  2.  How much time do I have for myself each day or each week?
  3.  Do I take short breaks throughout the day?
  4.  Can I do things to set more time aside for myself, like adjusting how much I have to clean my house or getting help from someone else?


  •  Practice creating small downtime throughout your day, like when your baby is happy or asleep, and spend just a few minutes having a cup of tea instead of trying to rush around the house and frantically do all the dishes and all the laundry at the same time.
  •  Ask for help from others.
  •  Drop some of the non-essential tasks from your to-do list so that you can save time for yourself. 

Some ideas on how you can take time for yourself include the following:

  • Smelling fresh flowers
  • Watching a movie
  • Writing a letter to a friend
  • Letting someone hold you
  • Sitting out in the dun
  • Drinking tea from an actual teacup
  • Petting a dog or cat
  • Resting with a comfortable blanket
  • Admiring the changing of the seasons
  • Lighting a candle
  • Reading cookbooks
  • Browsing a library
  • Meditation
  • Daydreaming
  • Picking berries
  • Painting
  • Looking at old photos
  • Socking in your rocking chair
  • Sitting in front of a fire
  • Eating popcorn
  • Taking a bubble bath
  • Sitting in silence


Postpartum depression cognitive behavioral therapy will help you recognize the importance of support. Having a child is a significant life change, and healthy relationships can protect you against depression. You should not try to cope with your postpartum on your own. Ask yourself:

  1.  Are there people you can openly talk to about your feelings?
  2.  Are there other moms you can speak to about the challenges of having a new baby?
  3.  Is
  4.  Are there people you can turn to for advice when you’re going through difficulty? 

You should find several types of support, and they don’t all have to come from the same person.


  •  Get emotional support from someone you know you can vent to when you’re frustrated that your baby isn’t sleeping or someone who tells you that they admire how hard you’re working to tackle your postpartum depression.
  •  Get practical support running errands or doing household chores from someone you can trust to take care of your baby for a short while you get a shower and a nap or bring meals to your family.
  •  Get social network support from support groups or community classes where you have a sense of belonging.
  •  Get informational support from someone who can provide accurate information about postpartum depression, like a qualified therapist.

This type of support can come from several possible sources, including the following:

  • spouses/partners
  • Family
  • Neighbors
  • Religious communities
  • Therapists
  • Support groups
  • Coworkers
  • Social workers
  • Pediatricians
  • Hotlines
  • Single mom groups
  • Doulas
  • Nannies
  • Housekeepers 
postpartum depression cognitive behavioral therapy

Getting professional help

If you are struggling with symptoms of postpartum depression, don’t be afraid to get help. There are several symptoms that you may not be able to completely tackle on your own.

Postpartum depression cognitive behavioral therapy offers a way to have regular appointments with a mental health professional and get individualized treatment. That will likely involve structured and supportive resources like regular homework and coping techniques you can use at home, and it might extend to medication like antidepressants. 

Finding a qualified CBT therapist for postpartum depression

Finding a qualified therapist can be challenging as a new mom when you find it difficult to leave the house. If you have a supportive partner and you can afford the time away, look for someone in your local area. Stepping outside of your home environment, the main source of stress and depression, can be an important part of your overall recovery.

If it’s not possible to meet with someone in person or you don’t have a qualified therapist in your area offering CBT for postpartum depression, there are online resources that let you schedule treatment sessions over the phone or with video chat features, which can be just as effective.

Note: It is a good idea to speak to your healthcare professional about whether CBT is right for you and what type of treatment is covered by your insurance provider. They can walk you through the advantages of getting help. The goal of treatment is to help you reduce your symptoms and increase your well-being so that you can prioritize the things that are most important. Untreated postpartum depression can have serious ramifications on mother and child.

Summing Up

There is great power and effectiveness in CBT for PPD. If you are struggling, it’s important that you prioritize your mental health and that you utilize the easy accessibility of CBT for postpartum depression by following some of these self-management tips and getting professional help from a qualified therapist.

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