A new mom holding their baby while drinking coffee, looking tired.

Understanding Postpartum Depression

What is Postpartum Depression?

Postpartum depression (PPD) is a form of clinical depression that occurs shortly after childbirth. It can bring about feelings of sadness, mood swings, a sense of being overwhelmed and even difficulty forming an attachment with your baby.

PPD is a mental illness and is by no means a judge of your character. Many women don’t expect depression to stem from a joyous occasion such as childbirth — but it’s a very real possibility. Educating yourself with accurate information will help you better prepare for PPD, should you develop it.

How Long Does Postpartum Depression Last?

Postpartum depression, also known as PPD, comes in a sequence of phases, starting from the “baby blues” that are often brought on within a few days and last roughly 1-2 weeks. Postpartum depression occurs if, after the two-week range, you are still experiencing symptoms of a depressed nature.

So, how long does postpartum depression last? Unfortunately, it may last several months or even years — ranging to a further condition called postpartum psychosis, in rare circumstances.

Please know that you do not have to suffer in silence for such a long period. If you believe you may be experiencing postpartum depression, it’s important to reach out and seek help. With proper guidance and care, you can beat postpartum depression.

Symptoms of Postpartum Depression

While there is no single symptom that can bring about postpartum depression, it's rather seen as a set of smaller symptoms that formulate the larger problem at hand. These symptoms can include:

  • Sadness. Feeling down, unmotivated, or filled with negative thoughts. It’s important to realize that this is not a sign of weakness but rather an imbalance in your brain chemistry.
  • Mood swings. Frequent changes in your mood from happy to sad to excitable or irritable. This indicates your brain’s inability to regulate emotions during this phase of depression.
  • Feeling overwhelmed or irritable. Feeling as if you have too much going on in the present moment, which can lead to agitation as a secondary emotion.
  • Insomnia, fatigue or restlessness. Depression often comes paired with an inability to sleep at regular times or sleep altogether. You may feel restless, as if you have to shake every limb to get rid of excess energy.
  • Anxiety. Feeling anxious is a common secondary symptom of PPD. You may get clammy, your mind will race, and you may feel uneasy.
  • Excessive crying. Abrupt changes in hormones may lead to outbursts of crying without the ability to understand why you're crying in the first place.
  • Reduced appetite. Depression can cause a lack of appetite and motivation.
  • Trouble bonding with your baby. While this sounds alarming, it’s quite common in women who struggle with postpartum depression and is a typical symptom of the illness. It’s important to remember that this feeling is likely temporary and will fade away with the depression.
  • Inability to concentrate. You may struggle to hold a linear thought process, feeling as though all of your thoughts are jumbled and mixed up.
  • Recurring thoughts of suicide, self-harm or harming your baby. If you’re at the point where you’re thinking of harming yourself or others, it’s crucial to seek help immediately.

Every woman is different and may not experience the same set of symptoms as someone else. However, if you believe you meet the criteria of these symptoms, be sure to reach out to someone you can trust, and formulate a plan moving forward.

How to Help With Postpartum Depression

There are many resources you can use to help yourself or somebody you love with postpartum depression.

Keep in close contact with your friends, family, or even professional support, such as a therapist or counselor, to work through any concerns you’re facing.

Postpartum Support International is an organization used to promote awareness of postpartum depression and assist those struggling with mental illness to find and seek care. You can call the PSI Helpline at 1-800-944-4773 or text “Help” to 800-944-4773 to talk with a trained professional.

NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, focuses on bettering the lives of Americans by providing local resources to individuals affected by mental illness.

Don't be afraid to reach out to someone if you're facing postpartum depression — you don't have to do it alone.