How to Navigate Postpartum Depression Treatment Options and Costs
Postpartum depression (PPD) is a serious condition affecting 13% of women in the United States. Learn how to finance your PPD treatment options, with or without health insurance.
Postpartum depression (PPD) is more than a brief period of sadness after giving birth — it's a serious emotional and physical challenge. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 13% of women report prolonged depressive symptoms after giving birth making it difficult to resume their everyday activities and care for a new child. Understanding the financial impact of treatment costs and how to navigate them with or without health insurance coverage can be stressful, but there are resources to help you manage it.
What Is Postpartum Depression?
PPD is a mood disorder that commonly occurs after childbirth. Many new mothers experience the "baby blues" marked by mood swings, anxiety and difficulty sleeping, which may persist for up to two weeks. However, PPD is significantly more severe than baby blues. PPD isn't exclusive to birthing mothers — it can also affect surrogates, adoptive parents and birthing partners. The onset is often linked to hormonal, emotional, physical and financial changes accompanying a new baby.
Symptoms of Postpartum Depression
PPD manifests in various ways, but common symptoms can include irritability, hopelessness and even thoughts of harming oneself or the baby. PPD is characterized as a serious condition marked by feelings of hopelessness, severe anxiety and intense irritability. Symptoms usually appear within the first few weeks after childbirth and can last up to six months or even start before the baby arrives.
Constant sadness, frequent crying, feelings of worthlessness and intense anxiety are common emotional symptoms.
Overwhelming fatigue, sleep issues (too much or too little), appetite changes and physical discomfort are often reported.
Difficulties bonding with the baby, withdrawal from family and friends and loss of interest in activities you formerly enjoyed.
Worrying about the cost of medical treatments, stress about returning to work and concerns about the ongoing cost of giving birth can make the postpartum period more difficult and potentially exacerbate PPD.
If persistent sadness or emotional numbness lasts for more than two weeks post-childbirth, it's time to seek professional help. Your primary health care provider should be your first point of contact.
- Health Care Providers: Whether it's your prenatal care provider, a mental health specialist, or your baby's doctor, don't hesitate to seek support.
- Emergency Help: In case of suicidal thoughts or thoughts of harming your baby, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 at 800-273-8255 or 988. Service is free and confidential.
Postpartum Depression Treatment Options and Costs
If you or someone close to you shows signs of postpartum depression, consulting a health care provider for an accurate diagnosis is the first step. Your doctor will typically use screenings or questionnaires to assess your condition. Treatment options — from therapy sessions and prescription medications to more intensive hospital care — are available to manage symptoms and improve well-being.
Medication-Based Treatment Costs
Medication is often key in treating postpartum depression. The choice of medication is tailored to various factors, including the severity of symptoms, medical history and various factors, including the severity of symptoms and medical history.
PPD is often treated with antidepressant medication to balance brain chemicals, alleviating symptoms like mood swings and persistent sadness. The cost of these medications can vary significantly — without insurance, generic antidepressants range from $7 to $135 for a 30-day supply. Commonly prescribed options include Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) and Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs).
The hormonal shifts after childbirth can trigger PPD in some women. Hormone therapy aims to stabilize these levels, potentially relieving PPD symptoms. One new treatment is Brexanolone (branded as Zulresso), which provides fast relief from PPD and is administered via IV (intravenous infusion). The estimated cost of Zulresso without insurance is around $7,854 for a supply of 20 milliliters, although insurance or rebates may help offset this cost. While hormone therapy can be a beneficial treatment, it is critical to work with your health care provider to develop a specific treatment plan.
Therapy-Based Treatment Costs
Therapy offers a confidential space for individuals to explore their emotions and acquire coping skills. Costs for therapy sessions can vary widely, influenced by factors like the therapist's expertise, geographic location and session length. The average cost of therapy in the United States ranges from $65 to $250 per hour, with most people paying between $100 and $200 per session. Insurance coverage and copays can also affect the overall cost.
The severity of your PPD and the therapist's guidance will determine the frequency of these sessions — some may need weekly sessions, while others might find biweekly or monthly sessions sufficient. Therapy can also extend to include spouses or family members, fostering a comprehensive approach to recovery.
Interpersonal Therapy (IPT)
Interpersonal Therapy (IPT) is a targeted treatment that focuses on improving interpersonal relationships and social support to help new mothers navigate role transitions and relationship dynamics. IPT typically lasts 12 to 20 weeks and addresses specific problem areas, such as the relationship between the mother and infant or the mother and partner. The cost per IPT session can range from $75 to $175. This time-limited, problem-focused approach can align well with the needs of postpartum mothers, offering a structured path to improved mental health.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is grounded in the idea that our thoughts, feelings and behaviors are interconnected. CBT aims to help individuals identify and change distorted thinking patterns and adopt behaviors that reduce distress. The cost for CBT sessions can range from $100 to $120 per hour for those without health insurance. The cost can be $250 per hour in major cities like New York City or Los Angeles.
Nondirective counseling, or "person-centered" therapy, focuses on empathic and nonjudgmental listening and support. This therapy helps you understand your emotions, past and present actions and values. This approach can be particularly useful for women with PPD as it allows them to express their feelings in a safe environment. Although not as extensively researched as CBT or IPT for treating PPD, existing studies are promising. A small 2010 study found that eight sessions aided in recovery from PPD and reduced the risk of relapse.
Hospital Care Costs
Hospitalization may be necessary in severe cases of PPD, particularly if there's a risk of self-harm or harm to the baby. The length of hospital stay can vary depending on the severity of the condition, but it often ranges from a few days to a week or more. Hospitalization is generally considered a last resort, only used when other treatment options have failed or the situation is life-threatening. The average cost of a three-day hospital stay is around $30,000.
Navigating Insurance Coverage for Postpartum Depression Treatment
Although most health insurance policies cover therapy sessions, medications and even hospital stays, the extent of the coverage can vary. Out-of-pocket expenses, deductibles and coverage limits are often part of the equation. It's crucial to read the fine print of your insurance policy, seek pre-authorization for treatments when necessary and openly discuss potential costs with health care providers.
Read the Fine Print
Thoroughly read your insurance policy to understand what is covered and what isn't. Look for terms like "mental health coverage," "therapy," or "hospital stays."
Consult Customer Service
Don't hesitate to call your insurance provider's customer service to clarify your coverage. They can provide specific information tailored to your plan and can often recommend treatments that are covered by your plan; they can often explain which treatments your plan covers.
Some treatments may require pre-authorization from your insurance provider. Make sure to complete this step before beginning treatment to avoid unexpected costs.
Check for Out-Of-Network Cost
Some insurance plans have higher costs for out-of-network providers. Ensure your chosen health care provider is in-network; be prepared that you may have to pay more if you use an out-of-network provider.
Understand Deductible and Copays
Be aware of any deductibles you must meet before coverage begins and any copays for visits or treatments.
Look for Sliding-Scale Therapists
Some therapists offer sliding scale (or discounted) prices based on your capability to pay, which can be a great option if your insurance coverage is limited.
Always keep records of treatments, medications and any communications with your insurance provider. These can be crucial if they deny your claim and you need to appeal.
Review Explanation of Benefits
After receiving treatment, you'll get an explanation of benefits (EOB) that outlines what has been covered. Review this carefully and contest any discrepancies.
Plan for the Long Term
PPD treatment can be ongoing. Plan for the potential costs if you need longer-term treatment.
Affordable Insurance Options for Postpartum Depression Treatments
If you're seeking treatment for PPD but are concerned about the costs, there are several affordable health insurance options to make your treatment more financially manageable.
Medicaid is a federal health insurance program tailored for families with limited incomes, offering a cost-effective way to cover mental health services like PPD treatments. Eligibility and coverage vary by state, but it generally includes doctor visits, hospital stays and prescription drugs. To apply, you can contact your state's Medicaid office or fill out an application in the Health Insurance Marketplace. Not all health care providers accept Medicaid, which may limit your options. You can apply for Medicaid at any time of the year.
Health Insurance Marketplace
The Health Insurance Marketplace, established by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), offers a variety of health insurance plans, some of which are subsidized based on your income. It's ideal for PPD treatments because these plans must cover mental health services. Open enrollment periods occur annually, but childbirth qualifies you for a 60-day special enrollment window. Costs vary by state and income, with tax subsidies available for those with limited incomes. To explore your options and apply, visit HealthCare.gov.
Shop Around for a Cheaper Policy
Shopping around for a cheaper health insurance policy can yield significant savings, especially when covering treatments for PPD. Utilize online comparison tools and consult independent insurance agents to get multiple quotes. Pay attention to the coverage details, specifically what is covered under mental health services. Don't just look at the premium — consider deductibles, copays and out-of-pocket maximums. Some websites offer personalized recommendations based on your health care needs, making it easier to find a policy that offers the best value for the coverage you require.
Paying for Postpartum Depression Treatments Without Insurance
Affordable options for PPD treatment are within reach, from sliding scale fees at community health centers to free support groups and crisis hotlines. Don't let financial constraints deter you from seeking help — your well-being is too important to put on hold.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) offers a valuable resource for finding low-cost mental health treatment, including for PPD. Using SAMHSA's treatment locator, you can find clinics in your area offering sliding scale fees based on income. SAMHSA also sponsors the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for emergency mental health support. To access these resources, visit SAMHSA's website or call their helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or 988.
Crisis hotlines offer immediate emotional support and can connect you to low-cost or free local mental health resources. They are accessible 24/7, providing a lifeline when you need them. For PPD, you can contact Postpartum Support International at 1-800-944-4PPD (4773) or the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) at 1-800-950-6264. These hotlines can be a crucial first step in getting the help you need.
Employee Assistance Programs (EAP)
If you're employed, check if your company offers an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). These programs often provide free or discounted mental health services, including therapy for postpartum depression. EAP services can be initiated through your workplace's human resources department, but the services themselves are usually completely confidential. It's a convenient and cost-effective way to get help without straining your budget.
Telehealth services offer a convenient way to consult with health care providers, including mental health professionals, from the comfort of your home. This option is particularly beneficial for new mothers who may find it challenging to get to a provider’s office. Many telehealth platforms charge lower rates than in-person visits. You can find accredited telehealth services through resources like the American Telemedicine Association, ensuring you receive quality care.
Support groups offer a communal setting where you can share experiences and coping strategies with others facing similar challenges. Although not a substitute for professional treatment, they can provide emotional relief and practical advice. Postpartum Men is a specialized online group for fathers.
Help is available if you or someone you know is struggling with postpartum depression. Numerous organizations offer various services, from informational guides to crisis hotlines.
- ClinicalTrials.gov: A database maintained by the U.S. National Library of Medicine. It provides detailed information on publicly and privately supported clinical studies conducted around the world.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Provides comprehensive resources for women, their families and friends to understand and deal with depression during and after pregnancy.
- National Institute of Mental Health: A federal agency offering information on mental health conditions, including postpartum depression.
- National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI): Offers support, educational resources and a helpline (800-950-NAMI) for various mental health conditions, including postpartum depression.
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, including those dealing with postpartum depression. Helpline: 1-800-273-TALK or 988.
- Substance and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): Offers a variety of mental health resources, including a treatment locator for clinics that offer sliding scale fees based on income. Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357).
- Mental Health America: Offers comprehensive mental health information, free online screening tools and resources for various mental health conditions.
- Mothertobaby.org: Offers information on medications and more during pregnancy and breastfeeding, helping mothers make informed decisions.
- Today's Parent: Provides articles and resources that offer guidance for those feeling unhappy, exhausted or anxious after childbirth, including resources for postpartum depression.
About Anja Solum, CEPF
- America's Health Rankings. "Postpartum Depression in United States." Accessed September 30, 2023.
- American Journal of Public Health. "Financial Toll of Untreated Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders Among 2017 Births in the United States." Accessed August 31, 2023.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Vital Signs: Postpartum Depressive Symptoms and Provider Discussions About Perinatal Depression — United States, 2018." Accessed September 14, 2023.
- Choosing Therapy. "Interpersonal Therapy: How It Works, Cost, & What to Expect." Accessed August 30, 2023.
- Cleveland Clinic. "Postpartum Depression." Accessed September 19, 2023.
- Drugs.com. "Zulresso Prices, Coupons and Patient Assistance Programs.." Accessed September 7, 2023.
- Good Therapy. "How Much Does Therapy Cost?." Accessed August 30, 2023.
- Healthcare.gov. "Why Health Insurance Is Important." Accessed August 30, 2023.
- K Health. "“How Much Do Antidepressants Cost? With and Without Insurance." Accessed August 30, 2023.
- Mayo Clinic. "Postpartum Depression." Accessed August 30, 2023.
- Mayo Clinic. "Depression and Anxiety: Exercise Eases Symptoms." Accessed August 30, 2023.
- Michigan Medicine. "A $34,000 Drug for Postpartum Depression Brings Praise, Price Concerns." Accessed August 30, 2023.
- National Library of Medicine. "Postpartum Depression." Accessed August 30, 2023.
- National Library of Medicine. "Treatment of Postpartum Depression: Clinical, Psychological and Pharmacological Options." Accessed August 30, 2023.
- PostpartumDepression.org. "Postpartum Depression Signs." Accessed August 30, 2023.
- PostpartumDepression.org. "Statistics on Postpartum Depression." Accessed August 30, 2023.
- Thervo. "How Much Does Therapy Cost?." Accessed August 30, 2023.
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration. "FDA Approves First Oral Treatment for Postpartum Depression." Accessed August 30, 2023.
- UNICEF. "What Is Postpartum Depression?." Accessed August 30, 2023.
- Verywell Family. "Postpartum Sleep Deprivation Can Age New Parents." Accessed September 30, 2023.