How long does postpartum depression last?
When will I recover?
We know these questions can weigh heavy on your mind when you’re struggling with postpartum depression.
It’s a tough condition to experience, particularly with the added pressures of caring for a newborn.
But, with the right treatment, you can recover and begin to enjoy life as a mama again.
In this article, we take a close look at postpartum depression, how long it lasts, and how it’s treated.
In this article: 📝
- What is postpartum depression?
- What’s the cause of postpartum depression?
- When does postpartum depression start?
- How long does postpartum depression last?
- Postpartum depression recovery and treatment
What is postpartum depression?
It’s different from the baby blues, which is where many new mamas have mild feelings of sadness, tearfulness, or irritation during the first couple of weeks after birth.
While the baby blues affects about 80% of women, only around 15% of women get postpartum depression.
(But that still means there are thousands of other mamas out there going through this.)
The symptoms of postpartum depression are more severe than the baby blues, and they tend to worsen over time. You might experience:
- Strong feelings of emptiness, despair, or guilt
- Severe anxiety or panic attacks
- Exhaustion and insomnia
- Difficulty looking after yourself and doing daily tasks
- Struggling to bond with your baby
- Thoughts about harming yourself or your baby
Important: If you have thought about harming yourself or your baby, get help straight away. Call the emergency services, your doctor, or a trusted friend now.
What’s the cause of postpartum depression?
There’s no single cause for postpartum depression.
Instead, it’s thought to be triggered by a combination of factors, which can include: hormonal changes after birth, a challenging birth experience, relationship issues, and problems with breastfeeding.
The most important thing to understand is: this is not your fault.
You have a medical condition that needs treatment for you to get better.
If you’re reading this while you’re still pregnant, and you have either a family history of depression or you’ve been diagnosed with it yourself before, let your doctor know.
Both of those are factors that can increase your risk of postpartum depression.
But telling your doctor can help them spot the signs early, meaning you can start treatment as soon as possible.
When does postpartum depression start?
Postpartum depression can start pretty much as soon as you give birth.
But you might just think you have the baby blues at first.
The tell-tale difference is if your symptoms last longer than two weeks, as the baby blues usually fade by this point.
Some mamas don’t experience postpartum depression right away, though.
It can take up to a year after giving birth to see symptoms, in some cases.
So don’t be afraid to raise the issue with your doctor, even if your baby is a little older.
How long does postpartum depression last?
Postpartum depression duration (the length of time you have symptoms) can’t be measured precisely, as every woman is different.
However, one scientific review of studies into postpartum depression found evidence that the majority of women recover within three to six months.
But the same review also found that 30 to 50% of women still have postpartum depression symptoms one year after giving birth.
And for some, it could be up to three years.
There’s no denying that it can be a long road to recovery.
But getting the right treatment and support early on may help shorten the journey – or at least make it a little easier to bear.
Postpartum depression recovery and treatment
If your baby blues aren’t fading, or it’s six months down the line and you’re feeling low, get in touch with your doctor.
Being diagnosed with postpartum depression might not sound positive, but it’s actually the first step toward recovery.
The main treatments you’re likely to be offered (possibly in combination) are:
- Antidepressants, such as serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Tell your doctor if you’re breastfeeding, so they can prescribe an SSRI that’s safe for your baby.
- Counseling, in particular cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
And there may be things you can do in your day-to-day life that might aid your recovery, too.
Joining a support group, finding help with childcare, getting out in the fresh air, and spending time with loved ones can all help alleviate postpartum depression symptoms.
But don’t expect yourself to be able to do all these things right away.
Take small steps, go easy, and give yourself time.
It’s all progress.
You’ll get there.