Some women experience postpartum depression after giving birth, and it’s not uncommon. Knowing “how long does postpartum depression lasts” will help you be there for struggling new mothers. This article sheds light on the average duration of postpartum depression and the likely progression of symptoms during this time.
What is Postpartum Depression (PPD)?
Some women experience postpartum depression, a mood disorder, after giving birth. Sadness, anxiety, and exhaustion are hallmarks of postpartum depression, making it difficult to get through the day and connect with one’s newborn. The “baby blues” are temporary and mild in comparison to this. Effective management of postpartum depression requires seeking support and treatment. For more information, check out this in-depth article about PPD.
How Long Can Postpartum Depression Last?
The pregnancy experience can be likened to an emotional roller coaster, while the postpartum period resembles an emotional whirlwind, often filled with fluctuating moods, tearful episodes, and heightened irritability. Giving birth triggers significant hormonal changes in your body and introduces a new family member into your home.
This upheaval may initially result in sadness, stress, and anxiety rather than the anticipated joy and elation. It is common for individuals to undergo these “baby blues” as a normal aspect of postpartum recovery, which generally dissipate within 1 to 2 weeks following delivery.
Nevertheless, new parents who continue to face difficulties beyond the 2-week mark could be experiencing postpartum depression (PPD). This condition is distinguished by more intense symptoms that persist far longer than the baby blues.
Can Postpartum Depression Last For Years?
In most cases, postpartum depression will begin within the first few weeks after giving birth, but its duration will vary from person to person. If untreated, postpartum depression can linger for weeks or months after a woman gives birth. However, in some people, postpartum depression persists for years and becomes chronic. No matter how long postpartum depression has been present,
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Postpartum Depression Fact Sheet
Postpartum Depression Overview
“Postpartum” means the time after childbirth. Most women get the “baby blues” or feel sad or empty within a few days of giving birth. For many women, the baby blues go away in 3 to 5 days. If your baby blues don’t go away or you feel sad, hopeless, or empty for longer than 2 weeks, you may have postpartum depression. Feeling hopeless or empty after childbirth is not a regular or expected part of being a mother.
Postpartum Depression Meaning
Postpartum depression is a serious mental illness that involves the brain and affects your behavior and physical health. If you have depression, sad, flat, or empty feelings, don’t go away and can interfere with your daily life. You might feel unconnected to your baby as if you are not the baby’s mother, or you might not love or care for the baby. These feelings can be mild to severe.
Epidemiology of Postpartum Depression
Postpartum depression most commonly occurs within 6 weeks after childbirth. PPD occurs in about 6.5% to 20% of women. It occurs more commonly in adolescent females, mothers who deliver premature infants, and women living in urban areas. African American and Hispanic mothers reported symptoms within 2 weeks of delivery, unlike white mothers, who reported the onset of symptoms later, as one study reports.
Risk Factors of Postpartum Depression
Psychological: History of depression and anxiety, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), Negative attitude towards the baby, the reluctance of baby’s gender, and history of sexual abuse are perpetual factors for developing postpartum depression.
Obstetric risk factors: Risky pregnancy, which includes emergency cesarean section and hospitalizations during pregnancy. Meconium passage, umbilical cord prolapse, preterm or low birth infant, and low hemoglobin are associated with PPD.
Social factors: Lack of social support can cause postpartum depression. Domestic violence in the form of spousal sexual, physical, and verbal abuse can also be a causative factor in developing the disease. Smoking during pregnancy is a risk factor for developing PPD.
Lifestyle: Eating habits, sleep cycle, physical activities, and exercise may affect postpartum depression. Vitamin B6 has known to be involved in postpartum depression via its conversion to tryptophan and, later on, serotonin, which, in turn, affects mood. The sleep cycle is among the factors influencing the risk of depression. Decreased sleep is associated with postpartum depression. Physical activity and exercise decrease depressive symptoms PPD.
Although less studied than depression, research on anxiety attacks during pregnancy’s effects on babies suggests that anxiety may negatively affect both the mother and the fetus. Anxiety increases the risk for preterm birth, low birth weight, earlier gestational age, and a smaller head circumference (related to brain size).
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Postpartum Depression Statistics
Depression is a common and serious illness. A CDC study shows that about 1 in 10 women in the United States reported symptoms that suggest they experienced an episode of major depression in the last year. While exact postpartum depression rates are unknown, there are some generally agreed-upon figures about the number of women who experience postpartum depression annually.
1 in 10 Women
Approximately 1 in 10 women will experience postpartum depression after giving birth, with some studies reporting 1 in 7 women.
Source: National Institute on Mental Health
Postpartum depression generally lasts 3 to 6 months. However, this varies based on several factors.
Source: National Institute on Mental Health
It is estimated that nearly 50% of mothers with postpartum depression are not diagnosed by a health professional.
Source: National Institute of Mental Health
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Timeline for Postpartum Depression
Postpartum depression is complicated and different for each person, and the order of its stages can differ. Postpartum depression usually goes through the following stages:
- Initial Baby Blues (Days 1–2 weeks): Many new mothers have mood swings, anxiety, and sadness in the first two weeks after giving birth. People often call these feelings “the baby blues,” they are thought to be a normal response to changes in hormones and getting used to being a mother.
- Acute Phase (Week 2 to Week 8): If the feelings of sadness, anxiety, and irritability don’t go away or worsen after the baby blues, it may be a sign of postpartum depression. During this stage, the mother may feel overwhelmed, have trouble bonding with the baby, sleep, and eat differently.
- Chronic Phase (Months 3–12): If postpartum depression isn’t treated, it can turn into a chronic phase in which the symptoms last for many months. The mother may continue to feel sad, tired, and hopeless and have trouble going about her daily life. It may also make caring for the baby and having relationships hard.
- Recovery and Remaining Symptoms (More than 12 Months): Many women feel better within the first year with the right care and support. But some people may still have lingering symptoms or relapses occasionally. For long-term recovery, it’s important to keep getting care and taking care of yourself.
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Postpartum Depression Treatment
A woman’s propensity to resort to postpartum depression self-care may be increased. Anxiety symptoms are also common among women. Almost two-thirds of women with postpartum depression also have an anxiety disorder, according to one study. In severe cases of postpartum depression, treatment may be required.
In postpartum depression with co-occurring multiple disorders, more experienced specialists are needed to diagnose and treat all underlying conditions. Women who become depressed after giving birth may be reluctant to seek help. This is due to the stigma attached to postpartum depression, which prevents many women from seeking help. Fortunately, attitudes are shifting as more people learn about and become familiar with this issue.
SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration) reports that up to 15% of depressed new mothers binge drink within a year of giving birth. Postpartum-depressed mothers who turn to alcohol as a coping mechanism significantly raise their children’s risk of alcohol poisoning. Thus, studies have shown that a baby’s growth can be stunted if alcohol is passed from mother to child during breastfeeding.
We Level Up’s mental health center employs licensed counselors and postpartum depression therapists competent in treating postpartum depression. You can rely on us to provide the support you need to care for yourself and your baby. Get in touch with the helplines in your area to find out more about postpartum depression treatment options.
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5 Popular How Long Does Postpartum Depression Last? FAQs
When does postpartum depression start?
Postpartum depression (PPD) usually starts within weeks of giving birth but can occur at any time during the first year. Person-to-person onset varies. PPD symptoms can appear days or weeks after delivery.
How common is postpartum depression?
Many women experience postpartum depression. Postpartum depression affects 10%–20% of new mothers. Cultural, social, and individual differences affect prevalence rates.
Why does postpartum depression happen?
Postpartum depression is a complex condition whose exact causes are not fully understood. However, it is believed to result from physical, emotional, and hormonal factors during and after childbirth.
Can men have postpartum depression?
Paternal postpartum depression, also known as male postpartum depression, is a condition in which fathers experience depression after the birth of a child. It’s a common misconception that only mothers experience postpartum depression, but fathers can experience it too.
How to prevent postpartum depression?
The risk of postpartum depression can be reduced, and better mental health can be promoted, but it is not possible to prevent postpartum depression altogether. Physical health, self-care, communication of feelings, and consideration of postpartum support groups can all contribute to a healthier postpartum experience, as can building a strong support system, seeking prenatal care, learning about postpartum depression, planning for postpartum support, and taking care of one’s physical health.
Coping with Depression Informative Video
Coping with depression can be challenging, but there are several strategies you can use to help manage your symptoms. Exercising, eating healthy, and getting enough sleep can help improve your mood. Talking to a therapist can also be beneficial as they can provide additional resources and help you process your thoughts and feelings. Lastly, knowing what triggers your depressive episodes can help you better prepare for them.
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Search We Level Up WA Mental Health How Long Does Postpartum Depression Last? Postpartum Depression Timeline Topics & Resources
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