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How Long Does Postpartum Depression Last?

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The postpartum period is an incredibly sensitive time for not just the new baby but also the parent who gave birth. Although most will experience a short period of “baby blues” in the early weeks following childbirth, not everyone will emotionally recover as quickly. If you feel like your emotions and mood are getting out of hand, or you’re feeling “down” for more than six weeks postpartum, you may be experiencing postpartum depression.

What Is Postpartum Depression?

The hormone change that occurs after giving birth is the single largest hormonal shift that any human being experiences in their lifetime. So, it should be unsurprising that this shift can lead to a variety of strange feelings and symptoms. When hormones plummet during the postpartum period, many people experience a short phase during which they feel emotionally sensitive, referred to as the “baby blues.” However, some continue to feel bad for many weeks following childbirth and may be diagnosed with postpartum depression. Here are some signs and symptoms of postpartum depression:

  • Mood swings and irritability
  • Feelings of sadness or anxiety
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Lack of motivation
  • Feeling detached from your baby
  • Having a hard time coping
  • Loss of interest in activities that you once enjoyed

If you are experiencing any or all of these symptoms, then it is important that you seek help as soon as possible. See your doctor or therapist and let them know what you feel so they can offer support where it is needed.

How to Tell If You Have Postpartum Depression

During your follow-up visits with your OBGYN, you will likely fill out a “PPD Screening Questionaire.” This survey will offer a variety of questions to help determine if you may have postpartum depression. Make sure to be open and honest with your doctor during your postpartum visits so that they can help you with any mental health challenges you may be facing.

Unfortunately, not everyone can tell if they have postpartum depression right away. Some don’t experience it until after seeing their doctor for their final postpartum follow-up. If you suspect that you may be developing postpartum depression, you’ll need to contact your doctor right away and set up an appointment. That way, they can accurately diagnose you and treat you as needed.

How Long Does Postpartum Depression Last?

The length of time that postpartum depression lasts will be slightly different for everyone. Some people start feeling better just a few days or weeks after diagnosis, while others may experience a longer recovery period. Doctors also treat postpartum depression differently depending on each patient’s unique situation.

Postpartum depression is most severe around 2-12 weeks postpartum, but symptoms can occur as late as 12 months postpartum. How long your postpartum depression lasts also may depend on how soon you seek treatment. The sooner people seek help with their postpartum depression, the sooner they can start treatment and feel better.

Treatment for Postpartum Depression

The treatment for postpartum depression varies depending on your situation and your doctor’s treatment plan for you. Less severe cases of postpartum depression may be simply treatable with supportive care, while more severe cases may require the prescription of anti-depressants. Speaking with a licensed therapist is an incredibly effective way to help with postpartum depression.

What Causes Postpartum Depression?

The hormonal shift that occurs in the weeks after giving birth is a big reason people experience postpartum depression, but this isn’t the only reason. The experience of welcoming a child into the world comes along with a variety of unique challenges, such as the need to process a complex series of emotions that you may have never felt before. On top of this, giving birth can be a traumatic experience, leaving some new parents feeling lost or disconnected from themselves. Those who have risk factors for postpartum depression, such as those with mental illness in their family history, are at an increased risk of developing PPD.

Tips for Preventing Postpartum Depression

It is not always possible to prevent postpartum depression, but it’s worth trying. Some steps that can help you reduce your risk of postpartum depression include the following:

  • Spend time learning about childbirth as well as postpartum recovery during your pregnancy. This way, you will feel more prepared for the childbirth experience and are less likely to feel traumatized afterward.
  • Lean on your family members and support people as much as possible during the postpartum phase. Plan and see if any of your loved ones can drop off a meal for your family during your recovery, so you can rest and have one less thing to worry about.
  • Rest and support your recovery as much as you can. Sleep when you can throughout the day (since you’re likely not getting much sleep at night), make sure you’re eating well, and take any supplements or vitamins that your doctor recommends to help support your recovering body.
  • Be intentional about bonding with your baby. Spend as much time as you can holding and snuggling with your baby so you can build a close bond with one another.
  • Try to lower your expectations. Be OK with a messy home, and don’t rush back to work or exercise before you are ready. Even if you feel ready to exercise sooner than expected, don’t rush into it. Overworking your recovering body can further deplete you and cause you to feel bad later on.

Your mental health should be taken seriously in the days and weeks following childbirth. If you suspect that you may be developing postpartum depression, reach out to your health care provider as soon as possible. Welcoming a child into the world is a strenuous process, so be patient with yourself and take as long as you need to recover.

Connect With Others Who Have Postpartum Depression

The Mighty is a community for people like you who are living with postpartum depression and other mental health conditions. You can read stories from others with similar experiences, join support groups for your condition, and even share your own story.

Postpartum Depression Support Groups

Mental Health Newsletters

Originally published: June 16, 2022
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