How Long Does Postpartum Depression Last?

Having a baby can be difficult. Pregnancy changes the mother’s body. Not only are there physical changes, but hormone production increases during pregnancy. Once the baby is born, the production of these hormones drops drastically, which can cause mood swings and feelings of sadness.

Postpartum mood disorders are part of many mothers' after-birth experiences to one degree or another. Along with the hormonal changes, they have a newborn to take care of, which can be overwhelming at times. Support from partners and family can be helpful for many new mothers and parents, but certain mood disorders, like postpartum depression, can make life as a parent particularly hard to adjust to.

If you’re in the middle of postpartum depression, it’s very important to have a good support system, especially a mental health professional. It may seem like it will last forever, but fortunately, there are treatment options that can help you conquer postpartum depression.

At Mommy Care Kit, we understand that a mom’s health is just as important as her baby’s. The postpartum period can be difficult for anyone and can take a toll on your mental well-being. So, how long will postpartum depression last? Let’s find out.

What Is Postpartum Depression (PPD)?

Postpartum depression (PPD) is a form of depression that usually starts after mothers give birth. It can affect how mothers bond with their little ones, as well as their mood, motivation, and sometimes their physical abilities. It is possible for PPD to affect fathers, too — the entrance of a newborn on the same is a big change for everyone, and it takes some time to adjust.

That being said, PPD is much more likely to affect mothers since they also have physical changes and hormone fluctuations to deal with.

It’s difficult to predict who may be affected by PPD since there are several different causes. One risk factor for postpartum depression is if you have a history of depression, although this is not always the case.

What Causes PPD?

Usually, PPD is caused by multiple factors. There are three primary categories of causes that we can look at:

  • Emotional difficulties
  • Physical changes
  • Genetics

Since babies need to eat every two hours, new parents often experience trouble sleeping enough, which can lead to emotional difficulties. Your brain isn’t processing normally, so you may feel anxious, irritable, and overwhelmed almost all the time. 

You may also be worried about your ability to care for your little one, especially if they are colicky. They’re crying a lot, and they aren’t comforted easily, which can make mothers and fathers alike wonder if they are doing something wrong. 

You’re probably doing great, but your little one’s cries can make it seem like the opposite is true.

Although schedule changes can affect fathers, mothers experience many physical and hormonal changes that can lead to PPD. Once your baby is born, there is a dramatic drop in progesterone and estrogen. This may also affect the thyroid's production of other hormones, leading to fatigue and depression.

If your family has a history of PPD, especially a major case, you may have a higher risk of postpartum depression after birth.

Is Postpartum Depression Different From Baby Blues?

If you’re preparing for a baby, you may have heard of the term “baby blues.” Frequently after a baby is born, mothers experience a short period of feeling sad and slightly empty, partly because of the change in hormone levels and partly due to a big schedule change.

Usually, baby blues only last for a few days. You should expect them to go away within three to five days. If you continue feeling the baby blues for over two weeks, you probably have postpartum depression. If you have any risk factors, like a history of depression, bipolar disorder, or PPD with a previous pregnancy, or a family history of PPD, it may be a good idea to talk to a healthcare provider or a mental health professional.

Typical cases of PPD suggest that the feelings of hopelessness, sadness, and emptiness are stronger than someone who has a case of the baby blues. Treatments may vary depending on what you’re experiencing, but it’s important to have support for your mental and physical health, which can, in turn, help your baby.

Is PPD Related to Postpartum Psychosis?

Postpartum psychosis is a postpartum mood disorder, but the symptoms are typically more severe. It can eventually lead to harm coming to yourself or the baby since mothers who have postpartum psychosis can experience confusion, delusions, and paranoia.

If you or your partner seem to have postpartum psychosis, especially if you have thoughts of harming yourself or your baby, you should seek medical help. Mothers with postpartum psychosis may require treatment like psychotherapy and hospitalization.

What Are the Symptoms of Postpartum Depression?

Postpartum depression is a difficult topic. Many mothers with this condition feel shame because they have trouble bonding with their babies or aren’t feeling as happy as a new mother is expected to feel. PPD isn’t something you should be ashamed of — it is okay and encouraged to seek support.

Some of the symptoms of postpartum depression are:

  • Excessive crying 
  • Anxiety around your baby or disinterest in your baby
  • Trouble focusing and thinking
  • Anxiety, feeling on edge, or excessive worrying
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Feeling like you don’t want your baby
  • Losing interest in hobbies or things you used to enjoy
  • Loss of appetite or changes in appetite
  • Insomnia or oversleeping
  • Feeling sad, worthless, guilty, or hopeless
  • Loss of motivation or energy
  • Difficulty bonding with your baby 

Everyone experiences symptoms differently, and you may not have all of them. However, if you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should talk to your healthcare provider and seek support from your loved ones.

When Will I Start Noticing PPD Symptoms?

Mothers with PPD will usually start experiencing symptoms soon after their new baby is born, although some mothers may begin to experience symptoms during their pregnancy. 

Sometimes PPD can be triggered by certain experiences, like difficulties breastfeeding, a baby that doesn’t want to sleep, having twins or triplets, relationship issues, or lack of a support system.

PPD can vary from mother to mother, so it’s important to recognize the symptoms so that you can get the help you need.

How Can I Get a PPD Diagnosis?

Most OB-GYNs and midwives will evaluate your mental health during your postpartum visits. They want to make sure that you and your partner are adjusting well to the new baby and to screen for PPD or other postpartum mood disorders.

You can be honest with your provider. Most providers are sympathetic and understand the difficulties you are going through. They will work to get you the help you need without judging you. They won’t be able to diagnose you if you aren’t honest with them, especially if you are experiencing a milder case of PPD.

Pediatricians will also screen for PPD at least until the six-month visit since untreated PPD can affect your baby, causing difficulties with eating and behavioral issues. They can also help you find the necessary resources to care for yourself and your little one.

How Long Can Postpartum Depression Last?

It’s not certain how long postpartum depression can last. PPD usually ends after the first year of your baby’s life. However, research indicates that 5% of mothers report experiencing PPD for at least three years after the birth of their little one.

Generally, it depends on you and your circumstances. With treatment, you can overcome postpartum depression, but the timeline may be different depending on the severity of symptoms and how soon you seek treatment.

What Are Potential Treatments?

There are many different treatments for PPD. Mental healthcare professionals will usually evaluate your symptoms and may recommend different things depending on severity. If something doesn’t work, they may change the treatment plan to something that may work for you.

It is likely that you will be advised to go to therapy sessions while you are experiencing PPD, most likely sessions that employ cognitive behavioral therapy. They can help you find new ways to deal with the thoughts you are having and sort out your feelings. They’ll teach you good strategies to aid your thought process to look at things more positively.

In some cases, medication like antidepressants or brexanolone, which is given through an IV over a two-day period, is necessary. These should only be taken at the recommendation of a professional, and you may not be able to breastfeed during your treatment since they may not be safe for your baby.

While you’re at home in between sessions, there are other strategies that may help improve your mood, like:

  • Sleeping when the baby sleeps
  • A support group
  • Asking for help from your partner, family, or friends
  • Talking with your partner, family, or friends
  • Finding other mothers to talk to
  • Avoiding any significant life changes, if possible
  • Making time for yourself to go out alone or with friends
  • Spending alone time with your partner

With help from others and some rest and time to yourself, it can improve your mood and help you feel better so that spending time with your new little one can be less overwhelming. It’s important to recharge your batteries.

Finding the Support You Need

If you or your partner are suffering from PPD, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Fortunately, it is treatable and can be overcome. With support from your partner, healthcare providers, family members, and friends, you can make your way through this difficult time.

Life as a new mother or father is stressful, especially if it’s your first time and you’re not sure of what you’re doing or if you’re doing it well. You’re doing great. It’s okay to admit that you need help.

If you’re looking for more informational resources on how to care for yourself and your baby, you can check out our pregnancy blog.


Postpartum Depression: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment |

Postpartum depression may last for years | National Institutes of Health (NIH)

Postpartum depression | Office on Women's Health

Postpartum depression - Symptoms and causes | Mayo Clinic