How long does postpartum depression last?
While pregnancy itself is a period of intense emotional change, the postpartum period can bring an even bigger change. Not only is your lifestyle going through major changes, but your body is dealing with big hormonal adjustments too.
PPD can affect people differently, and depending on the individual it can last as long as months or years. It’s important to identify it so you can treat it as soon as possible.
What is PPD?
PPD is a type of clinical depression that happens after the birth of a baby. It can occur in both the birthing parent and the non-birthing partner but most often manifests in the parent who gives birth. Studies using the groups “men” and “women” find that PPD affects around 8–10% of men, but 1 in 9 mothers.
PPD can also develop in new parents who adopt or who use a surrogate.
PPD differs from the baby blues, a term for the feelings of sadness and fatigue that most new birthing parents experience in the first week or two following the birth of a child. It’s important to recognize the symptoms of PPD. A good way to learn is to be aware of the symptoms of clinical depression.
PPD can also affect parents who do not have a baby at home after pregnancy. People who experience a miscarriage, stillbirth, or abortion can still develop PPD.
How long does PPD last?
PPD can begin as soon as you give birth, but you are unlikely to notice it until you recover from giving birth, usually at least a few days later. If you are African American or Hispanic, you may be more likely to develop symptoms of PPD earlier, as few as 2 weeks after delivery, than white parents.
PPD lasts for different lengths of time for different people. It can last for months or years. Around 5 percent of birthing parents report high levels of PPD symptoms for up to 3 years after giving birth.
Treatment can help you to feel like yourself again faster than without treatment. An older 2014 review of studies found that individuals who received counseling to help treat their symptoms of PPD had a lower rate of depression 1 year after giving birth than people not receiving treatment.
Additionally, some research has found that the COVID-19 lockdown worsened and lengthened the course of PPD for some parents.
For a doctor to diagnose you with PPD, symptoms should present most days, and be so severe that they disrupt your ability to function daily.
Symptoms vary greatly between individual parents, but some symptoms may include:
- loss of interest in hobbies
- inability to sleep (insomnia)
- trouble concentrating
- suicidal thoughts
- feeling guilty for no reason
- low self-esteem
- gaining or losing weight
These feelings can get in the way of you being able to bond with your new baby or even carry out care tasks such as breastfeeding or chestfeeding.
If you notice these symptoms in someone else or recognize them in yourself, it is important to seek advice from a doctor as soon as possible. PPD is serious if not treated, and can have serious effects on you and your child.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide or self-harm, please seek support:
- Call the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline 24 hours a day at 988.
- Text “HOME” to the Crisis Textline at 741741.
- Not in the U.S.? Find a helpline in your country with Befrienders Worldwide.
- Call 911 or your local emergency number if you feel it’s an emergency.
While you wait for help to arrive, stay with someone and remove any weapons or substances that can cause harm. You are not alone.
Free prescription coupons
Seriously … free. Explore prices that beat the competition 70% of the time.Get free card
You can receive help for PPD, so don’t feel like you must go through it alone. There are many different types of help, so you are likely to find one or a few that work for you and your lifestyle. Receiving help will mean you are more able to provide for your new baby, support your partner better as well as enjoy experiencing parenthood.
A combination of treatments can be an effective way to treat PPD. Some of these treatments can include:
- Antidepressants: There are many different types of antidepressant medications available, some of which are suitable and safe for new parents to take while breastfeeding or chestfeeding. Some of these include sertraline (Zoloft) and fluoxetine (Prozac). The Food and Drug Administration also recently approved brexanolone (Zulresso).
- Counseling: For example, cognitive behavioral therapy is a type of talk therapy that helps you to learn how to manage the changes in mood that PPD can cause.
- Support or therapy groups: They can help you connect with other people you can share your experiences with and may help you feel less alone. Communal encouragement and advice can be invaluable while you are receiving treatment and caring for a newborn. You can seek help in person or online.
If you need help covering the cost of medications, Optum Perks’ free Discount Card could help you save up to 80% on prescription drugs. Follow the links on drug names for savings on that medication, or search for a specific drug here.
PDD can last from months to years but rarely lasts for longer than 3 years in the majority of those who experience it. It can affect any gender, even if you have not given birth yourself.
Depression can have wide effects on your life, making it difficult to function in daily life. This is why it is important to speak to someone if you suspect that you or someone else has PPD.
If you experience symptoms for longer than 2 weeks after your baby is born, such as feelings of despair, insomnia, or sadness, seek advice from a doctor immediately.
Sharing your feelings is the best way to start trying to treat PDD. Reach out to your partner, friends, and medical professional. Getting help fast will help you to feel better quicker.
Download the free Optum Perks Discount Card to save up to 80% on some prescription medications.
- FDA approves first treatment for post-partum depression. (2019). https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-approves-first-treatment-post-partum-depression
- Gluska H, et al. (2022). Postpartum depression in COVID-19 days: Longitudinal study of risk and protective factors. https://www.mdpi.com/2077-0383/11/12/3488
- Mughal S, et al. (2022). Postpartum depression. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK519070/
- Kanes SJ, et al. (2017). Open-label, proof-of-concept study of brexanolone in the treatment of severe postpartum depression. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/hup.2576
- Ko JY, et al. (2017). Trends in postpartum depressive symptoms — 27 states, 2004, 2008, and 2012. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/66/wr/mm6606a1.htm
- Postpartum depression may last for years. (2020). https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/postpartum-depression-may-last-years
- Postpartum depression. (n.d.). https://www.womenshealth.gov/mental-health/mental-health-conditions/postpartum-depression
- Scarff J. (2019). Postpartum depression in men. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6659987/
- Support group options for postpartum depression. (n.d.). https://www.postpartumdepression.org/support/groups/
- Vliegen N, et al. (2014). The course of postpartum depression: A review of longitudinal studies. https://journals.lww.com/hrpjournal/Fulltext/2014/01000/The_Course_of_Postpartum_Depression___A_Review_of.1.aspx