It’s been longer than 2 weeks and you’re still feeling sad, disconnected from your baby, and unable to focus. When will these postpartum depression symptoms go away?
Wondering how long postpartum depression lasts is a common concern among people living with the condition and among their loved ones.
In the case of the baby blues, symptoms usually resolve within the first 2 weeks after baby is born. Postpartum depression typically lasts longer.
This is why it’s important to know the difference between postpartum depression and the baby blues.
At a glance, lingering low mood may suggest you have developed postpartum depression, although only a mental health professional can diagnose the condition.
Full recovery from postpartum depression is possible. Seeking professional support is recommended and can help you feel better.
Postpartum depression usually begins within 4 weeks after childbirth or the end of pregnancy. You could notice signs earlier or later, however.
Symptoms can show up as soon as 72 hours postpartum, or they may not show up for several months — though they do
Experts also recognize that symptoms of depression can begin anytime during pregnancy. That’s why you’ll also hear postpartum depression called “perinatal” or “peripartum” depression. These names simply mean depression that develops before or after delivery.
Depression that starts during pregnancy often persists after childbirth.
These depression symptoms can resemble the normal fatigue that comes with being a new parent, so you may not recognize signs of depression right away.
Fathers, adoptive parents, and other parents who didn’t give birth can also experience symptoms of postpartum depression for a few weeks or longer.
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While there’s not much research specifically looking at the course of untreated postpartum depression, experts do know symptoms can last for months, even years.
A 2014 review of 23 studies on the topic found that:
- Between 30% and 50% of birthing parents with postpartum depression still met the diagnostic criteria beyond the 1-year postpartum mark.
- In community samples, 17% to 62% of birthing parents with postpartum depression still experienced symptoms after 3 years.
- Clinical samples showed that 39% to 58% of birthing parents reported lingering symptoms of depression 3 years postpartum and beyond.
For many participants in that study, symptoms didn’t just persist. They also got worse over time.
Longstanding untreated depression in parents can affect their own well-being as well as that of their families. In particular, symptoms of postpartum depression can have a great impact on the baby’s social and emotional development.
So, what does that mean for you?
Scientific evidence can offer a lot of insight, but it can’t capture the experience of postpartum depression for everyone.
No matter how it shows up for you, know that postpartum depression is, in fact, a mental health condition.
Depression has nothing to do with your parenting skills or capabilities. Your symptoms are nothing to feel guilty about.
How long postpartum depression lasts may depend on many factors. It’s not a matter of motivation or your will to get better.
Yet without help and support, you might continue to live with feelings of sadness, fatigue, and overwhelm. You might find it difficult to bond with your baby or connect with loved ones.
Sometimes, untreated depression may also lead to thoughts of harming others or yourself.
Even with treatment, postpartum depression can sometimes last a long time. This doesn’t necessarily mean treatment doesn’t work.
While you might still notice a few symptoms, treatment can help you manage them, improving your outlook and overall well-being.
Since postpartum depression can depend on many factors, it’s natural that your recovery may feel slow to you.
In this instance, it’s a good idea to focus on the progress you’ve made and the aspects you feel have improved.
Symptoms of postpartum depression may begin to improve within a few weeks of starting treatment. This time frame may vary depending on the type of treatment and other external factors.
The most common treatment options for postpartum depression and their duration include:
- Therapy. Many people feel better after just about eight visits over 8 weeks.
- Medication. If your doctor recommends antidepressants, you may need to take them for several weeks to notice improvement, and sometimes for years if symptoms don’t subside. If you’re still breastfeeding, consider talking with your doctor about other options.
- A combined approach. Your doctor may recommend combining medication and therapy for severe symptoms or symptoms that don’t improve with therapy or medication alone. This could take from 8 weeks to a year or longer, depending on your symptoms.
The duration of postpartum depression symptoms may vary pretty widely from person to person.
You might have mild symptoms that begin to improve right away with treatment. But you could also have very intense symptoms that linger even after treatment starts.
Experts have yet to agree on a specific cause of postpartum depression or why it lasts longer in some people than others.
A few key factors may affect how severe your symptoms are and how long the condition lasts.
Postpartum depression may last longer if you:
- have a history of depression, including previous experience of postpartum depression, or bipolar disorder
had gestational diabetesor other pregnancy or birth complications
- live with chronic stress, including work, family, or relationship difficulties
- have little support from your partner and other loved ones
- have trouble getting your baby to eat or sleep
- have a baby with different needs or with a health condition
When it comes to depression, it’s highly advisable to get professional support when possible.
Untreated depression may lead to symptoms getting worse or lasting longer.
Treatment for postpartum depression might include:
- Individual or group therapy. Interpersonal therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy are a couple options.
- Medication. Your doctor may prescribe antidepressants or
brexanolone, a short-term medication for postpartum depression. Brexanolone is given intravenously over 60 hours. Tell your doctor if you’re breastfeeding before starting this treatment.
- Transcranial magnetic stimulation. When postpartum depression is resistant to therapy and medication, your doctor might recommend this noninvasive brain stimulation therapy.
If you have symptoms of postpartum depression, you might find it difficult to put your emotions into words and share those feelings, especially if you’ve had thoughts of hurting yourself or your baby.
Remember, though, that healthcare professionals are trained to recognize postpartum depression and offer compassion, not judgment.
They understand you can’t help or prevent those thoughts, and they’ll support you in taking steps to feeling better.
How long postpartum depression lasts may depend on many factors and could be out of your hands in many instances.
However, support from a trained, compassionate therapist can help relieve some of your symptoms and lower the chances of any lasting effects.
Consider visiting these resources to find more information on how to receive support:
- American Psychiatric Association Find a Psychiatrist tool
- American Psychological Association Find a Psychologist tool
- National Alliance on Mental Illness helplines and support tools
- Asian Mental Health Collective therapist directory
- Association of Black Psychologists therapist resource directory
- National Institute of Mental Health helpline directory
- Postpartum Progress support groups
- Postpartum Education for Parents outreach form
- Postpartum Support International Helpline
- Inclusive Therapists