After having a baby, how long does it take to recover? No one can say how long, but many women find that their bodies and spirits return to normal within a few weeks. Around 1 in 7 women can develop postpartum depression. Postpartum depression (PPD) is caused by changes in hormone levels as well as the increase of stress during pregnancy and after childbirth. The lack of sleep and self-care also contribute to the risk factors for developing this disorder.
Postpartum depression is more than the “baby blues,” which affects about 75% of women after giving birth. Symptoms can include mood swings, anxiety, sadness, changes in sleeping patterns, and changes in eating habits. Postpartum depression is a serious illness that requires immediate treatment. So, how long does it take to recover from postpartum depression? How does this mental health condition affect the women who suffer from it?
What Causes Postpartum Depression?
Doctors don’t know the exact cause of postpartum depression, but it happens when a hormone imbalance disturbs how your body functions. Some experts also believe that emotional changes like strained relationships or lack of support from family members or friends can contribute to how you feel, too.
Other possible causes include:
- Personal history with depression
- Postpartum depression doesn’t “run in the family,” but if you had depression before, your risk increases
How Common is Postpartum Depression?
Postpartum depression can affect a woman of any age, but it most commonly occurs in new mothers, typically developing a few days to a few weeks after giving birth. Postpartum depression is estimated to affect about 10% of women within the first year after giving birth.
How Does Pregnancy Affect a Woman’s Hormones?
Hormones in a woman’s body change during pregnancy and with childbirth. These changes in hormones can affect how you feel emotionally. This can be even worse after giving birth when hormone levels continue to fluctuate.
How Long Does It Take for Hormones to Return to Normal?
It may take a few months after childbirth before your hormones return back to how they were before giving birth and how you felt while you were pregnant. The length of time it takes for the hormones in your body to return back may vary from woman to woman. You should look out for any physical or emotional changes that seem unusual during this period because these could be signs of postpartum depression.
How Does the Brain Change During Pregnancy?
The brain under pregnancy undergoes significant changes in how it functions. These changes are believed to be the cause of mood swings, irritability, and other emotions that pregnant women experience. How long postpartum depression lasts is dependent on how soon you seek treatment from a professional.
If left untreated, postpartum depression can last for up to a year or more. A small percentage of women may even develop postpartum psychosis, which could lead to dangerous actions toward themselves and their children.
How Does Depression Affect Women Differently Than Men?
Women experiencing depression after their babies are born can go undiagnosed for a long time. This is because postpartum depression symptoms in women are different from how depression presents in men. Many people think that depression only occurs if someone is crying or talking about how they feel. But how you act can be just as important.
Postpartum psychosis is the more extreme version of postpartum depression, and it occurs in less than 2% of pregnancies. Symptoms may include delusions, hallucinations, loss of appetite, and changes in sleep patterns.
Women who have anxiety disorders before giving birth may be at risk for developing postpartum psychosis during pregnancy or after giving birth to a child. They may develop symptoms including suicidal ideation or self-harm or their loved ones.
How Long Does It Take to Recover From Postpartum Depression?
Postpartum depression can last from several months to a year or longer in some cases. A woman may feel overwhelmed with sadness and lose interest in activities she once enjoyed. She may be unable to care for herself and her child due to restlessness and fatigue. After treatment, things slowly start to get better: moods become more stable, feelings of emptiness go away and energy levels increase over time.
1 in 5 adults in the U.S. experiences mental illness each year. 1 in 20 U.S. adults experiences serious mental illness each year. At least 8.4 million people in the U.S. provide care to an adult with a mental or emotional health issue. Caregivers of adults with mental or emotional health issues spend an average of 32 hours per week providing unpaid care.
The length of time for PPD recovery varies. For mild cases, some women recover in two weeks while others may take several months. Severe cases of PPD can last six months or longer. Whatever the case, be aware of how serious this condition is and how important it is to seek treatment immediately.
What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Postpartum Depression?
The signs of postpartum depression are similar to some behaviors associated with clinical depression. When you feel sad or hopeless almost every day for at least two weeks, have problems concentrating on your daily tasks, experience sleep disturbances or lack of sleep nearly every night for at least two weeks, or think that life isn’t worth living — then it’s time to seek help from your doctor right away.
The following symptoms can occur:
- Feelings of anger
- Crying more often than usual
- Withdrawing from loved ones
- Feeling distant from your baby
- Worrying or feeling overly anxious
- Thinking about hurting yourself or your baby
- Doubting your ability to care for your baby
The symptoms of postpartum depression typically begin within the first four weeks after childbirth, but some women may feel depressed before that.
More About PPD
If your pregnancy was unplanned or unwanted, you’re at a greater risk of developing the condition. While how long it takes to recover from postpartum depression varies, how long it lasts also varies from person to person. It can depend on how quickly a person seeks treatment and how aggressive the course of treatment is
Most sufferers note improvement between four and eight weeks after beginning therapy, and almost all experience complete relief within six months if they stay in treatment with an experienced therapist. However, some women who have more severe forms of the disorder may take as long as two years to find complete peace from their symptoms.
Treatment for postpartum depression should begin immediately after the onset of symptoms to prevent worsening or further complications during treatment. Treatment includes antidepressant medications like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and psychotherapy, often with an experienced therapist who specializes in treating this condition.
How long it takes to recover from PPD depends on how quickly you seek treatment. If you start treatment early, it may be a shorter time until your mental health begins to improve. Waiting too long because of denial or lack of awareness about your health can make the recovery process much longer.
What’s the Difference Between Postpartum Depression and Postpartum Psychosis?
Postpartum depression is more common than postpartum psychosis. Postpartum psychosis is rare, but it’s still a factor that can cause problems for both mother and baby. The risk of developing postpartum psychosis is about 1 in 1,000 women.
Women dealing with this type of severe mental illness may have delusions and hallucinations and can be a danger to themselves and their babies. Postpartum psychosis is best described as a psychotic break from reality. All the same warning signs for depression apply here.
What Are the Risk Factors for PPD?
The risk factors for PPD include:
- Previous PPD
- Being in poor or fair health
- Having a severe mental illness before delivery
- Being younger than 20 years old when you have a baby
- Experiencing stressful life events during the pregnancy, such as financial problems
How Do I Speak to My Partner About Postpartum Depression?
Speaking to your partner about your struggle with postpartum depression after having a baby can be difficult. Remember that your partner may not have an understanding of all the details about your condition. But, they have the chance to try to understand how you are feeling and why. Your doctor can provide support, information, and effective treatment for both of you. He or she may be able to refer you for couples counseling if necessary.
How Can I Support My Partner If She Has PPD?
Supporting a partner who’s suffering from postpartum depression is challenging. Do your best to be patient and understanding, but know that it may take time for your partner. Unfortunately, there isn’t one single factor that determines how quickly or slowly a woman recovers from postpartum depression.
Recovery from Postpartum Depression
Postpartum recovery is most successful with treatment that has been tailored to the individual’s problems and needs. With such treatment, most women will eventually recover from postpartum depression. Recovery takes time; don’t rush yourself. Postpartum depression shouldn’t be taken lightly because it can hurt your self-esteem and cause problems with your relationship with others as well as with yourself. The more attention paid by everyone involved, the sooner help can be provided.
Postpartum Depression and Substance Abuse
Postpartum depression and substance abuse are very serious conditions. If you are suffering from postpartum depression, get help as soon as possible. Substance abuse makes postpartum depression worse, can develop into a serious addiction problem, and poses risks to your children.
Drugs and alcohol can disrupt the balance of chemicals in your brain, making it more difficult to function. They contribute to feelings of sadness and hopelessness. As you abuse substances, you may become fatigued or exhausted. You may even experience suicidal ideation: thoughts that you want to end your life. Be sure that if one person suffering from postpartum depression has improved after suffering for a long time, the other is seen by a doctor immediately and treated effectively as well so as not to allow the disorder to worsen.
What Types of Treatment Can Help Address PPD and Addiction?
The types of help available for PPD and addiction include:
- Support Groups
- Medication: Antidepressants and/or Anti-anxiety Medications
- Alternative therapies, such as yoga or acupuncture may also be helpful
- Psychotherapy (family counseling, individual therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, etc.)
The most important thing for you to remember is that it’s not your fault and that there is no need to suffer in silence. It can be treated easily if you get help right away. Seek out the support of family and friends, talk about how you are feeling, and ask them how they think things can be made better for you.
Recovery takes time; don’t rush yourself. Postpartum depression shouldn’t be taken lightly because it can hurt your self-esteem and cause problems with your relationship with others as well as with yourself. A strong support system is vital to recovery.
What Are Alternative Ways to Heal from Postpartum Depression?
Alternative ways to heal from postpartum depression are very important. It is important to be aware of how serious this condition is and how you are not alone in dealing with it. While medical treatment can help, many women find relief by working with a mental health provider that specializes in treating postpartum depression or other mood disorders. Also, there are natural ways that can help alleviate symptoms of PPD including exercise, socialization, engaging in activities you enjoy, and spending time with family and friends.
Take Action Against Postpartum Depression at New Directions for Women
Do not wait for dangerous signs of postpartum depression to appear before seeking help. Being knowledgeable about the disorder will help you understand how serious it is so it doesn’t catch you off guard. New Directions for Women is dedicated to providing quality resources for women during difficult times. If you are suffering from PPD and addiction, your path to recovery is just a click away. Discover your new beginning here. If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, contact us today.