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How Long Does Postpartum Depression Last?

Sailaxmi Chennuru

Childbirth is an important event in a woman’s life. Having a baby is an exciting and memorable experience but it can also be physically grueling and mentally difficult. Postpartum period is a phase of extreme physical and emotional transition with intense biological, psychological, and hormonal changes. 

It is not uncommon for new moms to experience the “baby blues,” a postpartum mood disorder that commonly includes feelings of sadness, stress, and anxiety. The baby blues typically start within 2-3 days after delivery and may last for up to two weeks, and the symptoms will resolve on their own. But if the symptoms do not cease and become more persistent and severe, it may be a sign of postpartum depression (PPD.) 

According to CDC research, 1 in 8 women experience symptoms of postpartum depression which accounts for about 15%. PPD is a serious mental illness and does not resolve itself. Fortunately, treatment for postpartum depression works and will help you manage your symptoms and bond well with your baby. 

What is Postpartum Depression?

Postpartum depression, also known as postnatal depression, is a form of depression that begins after childbirth. New moms go through tremendous changes physically and mentally, and some women cannot cope and develop symptoms of depression. PPD involves feelings of extreme sadness, anxiety, irritability, restlessness, and crying spells as well as changes in energy, sleep, and appetite. 

Fathers also experience symptoms of postpartum depression. About 4% of men can have depression in the first year of their child’s birth. 

Some women experience more serious kinds of depression, such as postpartum rage and postpartum psychosis, which are rare. Postpartum rage includes symptoms of PPD along with intense anger and irritability. Postpartum psychosis is a dreaded mental illness that may involve psychotic symptoms like delusions and hallucinations. This condition requires urgent medical intervention because it poses a threat to the life of the mother and her baby. 

Symptoms of Postpartum Depression 

PPD symptoms may include: 

  • Depressed mood 
  • Anger 
  • Excessive crying 
  • Severe anxiety and panic attacks 
  • Insomnia 
  • Low self-esteem 
  • Constant guilt 
  • Difficulty concentrating 
  • Hopelessness 
  • Withdrawing from loved ones 
  • Avoiding social interaction 
  • Extreme fatigue or loss of energy 
  • Loss of appetite or eating much more than usual 
  • Difficulty bonding with the baby 
  • Worrying that you will hurt the baby 
  • Feeling like you are not a good mother 
  • Feelings of worthlessness 
  • Suicidal thoughts 

If the above symptoms last longer than two weeks after childbirth and hamper your daily life, you should seek medical attention for prompt treatment. 

How long does Postpartum Depression last? 

Postpartum depression can occur anywhere from a couple of weeks to 12 months after childbirth. Therefore, no timeline can definitively say how long postpartum depression lasts for those who experience it. Without treatment, PPD can last for months or even years. If you experience postpartum mood disorders, you should seek medical attention for a prompt diagnosis. 

When dealing with postpartum depression, early intervention is crucial for the mother’s mental health and the baby’s cognitive development. The sooner PPD is diagnosed, the better because an effective treatment plan can help you manage symptoms and improve your quality of life. Upon diagnosis and a prescribed treatment plan, symptoms can improve quickly. 

The timeframe for recovery from PPD is different for everyone. If you have certain risk factors, your symptoms might last longer, even with treatment. The intensity of your depressive symptoms and how long you experienced symptoms before beginning treatment may also affect how long your PPD lasts. However, with the right treatment, especially when it is started early, you can find relief even if you have certain risk factors. 

How Long Does Postpartum Depression Last
How Long Does Postpartum Depression Last
How Long Does Postpartum Depression Last
 

Risk factors that may affect how long PPD lasts 

It is important to understand that if you have postpartum depression, it is not your fault. It is a common mood disorder affecting many women, but it does not mean they are bad mothers. Some women can overcome the symptoms early, while for some, it takes time. Several factors may contribute to postpartum depression that lasts longer. 

The factors which increase the risk of PPD include: 

  • History of depression or bipolar disease 
  • Depression during pregnancy 
  • Family history of depression or mental illnesses 
  • Unplanned pregnancy 
  • Experienced an extremely stressful event like a health crisis, job loss, domestic violence, or death in the family around the time of pregnancy 
  • Lack of support from the spouse or other loved ones 
  • Marital or relationship conflict 
  • Alcohol or drug abuse 
  • Pregnancy complications like health conditions, preterm birth, or difficult delivery 
  • Having twins, triplets, or other multiple births 
  • Having a child with health problems or special needs 
  • Living alone 

What causes Postpartum Depression? 

The exact cause of postpartum depression is currently unknown. A combination of factors may contribute to its development. These factors may include: 

  • Chemical changes: The levels of estrogen and progesterone increase dramatically during pregnancy and drop back to pre-pregnancy levels within a few days after childbirth. This rapid drop in these hormones may contribute to postpartum depression. There can also be a drop in other hormones produced by the thyroid gland, which can leave you tired, sluggish, and depressed. 
  • Physical and emotional issues: Looking after a newborn baby is a huge responsibility that may leave you sleep-deprived and overwhelmed, and you may have trouble handling even minor issues. Some new moms may be anxious about their parenting abilities. 

Some women may have concerns about their physical appearance and feel less attractive, struggle with their sense of identity, and feel they have lost control over their life. These social, physical, and psychological issues can play a role in PPD. 

Treatment for Postpartum Depression 

If you are diagnosed with postpartum depression, it is essential to start treatment as early as possible to be back to your normal self. There are several treatment options available for people experiencing postpartum depression. PPD treatment depends on the type of symptoms you have and how severe they are. Your physician will be able to offer an effective treatment plan that works for your condition. 

Here are some treatment options: 

  • Medications: Medication is the first-line treatment for PPD. Your doctor may prescribe antidepressants such as serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) to treat your condition. Many SSRIs are safe even with breastfeeding. So, work with your medical provider to find the medication that best treats your symptoms with the fewest side effects. 
  • Counseling: Psychotherapy is often the first treatment option for people with mild to moderate cases of PPD. Attending talk therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) sessions may help in combination with other treatments. CBT focuses on how your thoughts relate to your behaviors. 
  • Group therapy: Joining a support group can help you listen to the experiences of parents who have had postpartum depression. Try to find a support group either online or in person because that can be a valuable aid in your recovery. 

Self-care tips for coping with Postpartum Mood Disorders 

Parenting is not easy, and it is normal to feel overwhelmed at times. Many new moms experience highs and lows in the first weeks and months after childbirth. Following are some tips that can help you manage depression: 

  • Accept help from friends and family and let them know how they can help 
  • Limit visitors during the first few weeks 
  • Get proper rest; you can sleep or rest when the baby sleeps 
  • Eat a balanced and nutritious diet 
  • Try to avoid alcohol and caffeine 
  • Start exercising after consulting your doctor 
  • Get help with household chores and errands 
  • Keep socializing, do not isolate yourself 
  • Allocate time for self-care and do things that you enjoy like reading or other hobbies 
  • Accept the fact that there will be some good days and some bad days 
  • Spend some quality time with your partner and nurture your relationship 
  • Join a support group for new parents 

Postpartum depression lasts longer than the typical “baby blues” and can begin anytime within the first year after the baby is born. If you notice symptoms of PPD, talk to your doctor. PPD is a common condition and is easily treatable. If you have concerns about the way you feel, there is no shame in seeking medical support. It is the first step towards recovery and the health and well-being of you and your baby. 

 

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HPFY Sailaxmi Chennuru

Sailaxmi Chennuru

Sailaxmi Chennuru, has been a Health Products For You contributor since 2017. A business management graduate, the study of anatomy has always been of interest to her.

After working as a medical transcriptionist for several years, she developed a keen interest ...

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