One Year Postpartum and Still Depressed?

How long does postpartum depression last?

Seven years.  That’s how long I have personally battled postpartum depression.  I’ve tried all kinds of different treatment options over the years and it regularly fluctuates between better and worse.  There was a time in my life when I thought I was cured.  But now I know better.  I know that it will never go away.  I have accepted that managing my mental health is going to be a lifelong journey.

Yes, postpartum depression can last longer than a year or more.  Here’s what you need to know.
One Year Postpartum & Still Depressed
*This post contains affiliate and/or paid links which means that if you click on one of these links and buy a product, I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Rest assured that I only recommend products that I love from companies that I trust. Furthermore, I am not a medical professional and nothing in this post should be taken as medical advice. I am simply a mother who has been there and lived to tell the tale.

Postpartum depression is a form of a major depressive disorder that happens to women after they give birth. Something along the journey into motherhood triggers the brain to revert into a depressive state.  Sometimes the cause is obvious, such as a difficult labor or a history of trauma, abuse or mental illness.  In other cases, the cause lies much deeper and is harder to pinpoint.  Regardless of the cause, a mental illness has now been triggered and that means it’s here to stay. While similar in symptoms, there are a few differences between depression and postpartum depression.

Hormones have a lot to do with it. 

Creating a life is unlike any other event in the world. Women’s bodies go through immense changes that we can’t even begin to understand.  We’re all too familiar with the hormonal changes that happen during pregnancy, causing an expectant mother to feel everything from uncontrollable weepiness to pure rage.  After giving birth, those hormones now have to work overtime to regulate themselves and it’s not an easy process.

The majority of women will experience some form of the baby blues, which is not a mental health disorder, but rather a normal response to the hormonal and environmental changes.  It’s easy to blame all these new and scary feelings on the baby blues, but those only last for a couple weeks.  Postpartum depression can begin anytime in the year after giving birth, and long after hormone levels have regulated.

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Depression can be triggered by trauma.

In addition to those 9 months of changes, there is the trauma of childbirth. No matter what your labor and delivery story was like, it was traumatic on your body.  Like a soldier going to war, you will come out of it a changed person.  For some, their body adjusts to the trauma and they are able to move on, at least to some degree.  For others, however, the trauma leaves it’s mark.

Bear in mind that what is considered traumatic to you, may not be considered traumatic to others.  Just because you had a smooth delivery without any major problems doesn’t mean you’ve escaped unscathed.  Birth has a way of uncovering deep feelings and vulnerabilities that we didn’t even know we had.  Speaking to a therapist or using cognitive behavior therapy can help to discover the root cause of your postpartum depression.

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Maternal postpartum care sucks.

There is no elegant way to put this, it just plain sucks.  A lot of emphasis is put on prenatal care, but not nearly enough on postpartum care.  Once a mother becomes pregnant, she is seen by a doctor monthly, then bi-weekly, weekly and sometimes even daily until she gives birth.  Then there is a whole lot of commotion surrounding the birth and the 3 or so days afterwards.  

And then she is sent home with a follow up appointment for 6 weeks later.  She’ll have to haul that baby in to get checked out on the regular, but now that the baby is on the outside, her body doesn’t seem to matter anymore.  Unless there is a physical postpartum complication, then she will get the care and attention she needs.  But mental postpartum complications are never treated with the same sense of urgency.

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What [actually] happens in the 4th Trimester?

Here is a woman who’s physical, mental and emotional state has just gone through the roller coaster ride of it’s life.  She is in pain everywhere as she’s literally just been ripped open and had a part of her removed.  A brand new person is now completely dependent on her for their survival but there is a major communication barrier. 

Despite feeling the highest levels of exhaustion, she’ll be unable to sleep for longer than a 3 hour stretch… for months.  The pressure to breastfeed weighs heavily on her.  She will feel vulnerable, exposed and judged every time her baby is hungry, and that will be a lot.  She will lose all confidence in herself as a woman if she is unable to produce enough milk.

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The first three months postpartum (or 4th trimester) should be the time when a mother rests and gets to know her newborn.  She should have support and help.  She shouldn’t need to worry about anything other than herself and baby.  But this rarely happens.  A lot of people will “visit” but only the odd few will actually be of any real help.  Many mothers even have to return to work before they have time to properly heal.  

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Years Later and Still Depressed.

When we take into account the terrible state of maternal mental health care, it’s no wonder that more and more women are battling depression long after giving birth.  Postpartum depression and other perinatal mood and anxiety disorders should be treated with much more respect.  Mothers need time to heal, they need help and proper support.  The level of care for a new mother should be just as important as it is for a newborn baby.

But the blame is not solely on the health care system. Take my story, for example.  I am fortunate that I live in Canada and was able to take an entire year of paid maternity leave.  I also delivered by midwives and the postpartum care that I received from them was far superior to anything I got in the hospital.  They came TO. MY. HOUSE. for days and weeks afterwards just to check up on me and baby.  They stayed for hours and drank tea and helped me breastfeed and changed diapers.  But I still got postpartum depression, despite all of that.

What it comes down to is that mothers need to take better care of themselves.  They need to understand the importance of rest and accepting help from others.  And most importantly, they need to speak up if they feel like something isn’t right.

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There is no cure for postpartum depression.  Treatment will make the symptoms manageable but it will never go away.

This will be my seventh year fighting against postpartum depression, so I can confirm that this is a long term battle.  But I say this not to make you feel even more depressed, but to encourage and inspire you.  Talk to you doctor, fight for your rights, demand better treatment and speak up about postpartum depression to everyone who will listen. 

Most importantly, seek treatment.  With the right treatment, you can live symptom free for the rest of your life.  All it takes is that first step.

One Year Postpartum & Still Depressed One Year Postpartum & Still Depressed


How to Avoid a Postpartum Depression Relapse

Postpartum depression isn’t a matter solely for mothers of newborn babies. 

It’s a lifelong struggle.  Even with treatment, a postpartum depression relapse can happen years after the sleep deprivation and breastfeeding days are over.  The best way to describe it is to imagine that a depression gene is lurking somewhere within you.  In some people, it is never triggered and lays dormant their entire life.  In others, it’s triggered during childhood or puberty, from a traumatic event, or by pregnancy and childbirth.

The problem is, once it’s triggered, it’s more likely to keep happening.

Treatment can manage the symptoms and controlling specific triggers can help to avoid relapses.  But it’s not something that is ever cured, and it will never go away because it was always there to begin with.  It can only be controlled.

[This article from Harvard Health goes into great detail about what causes depression and relapses.]

Here are some tips to help you avoid a postpartum depression relapse.
How to Avoid a Postpartum Depression Relapse
*This post contains affiliate and/or paid links which means that if you click on one of these links and buy a product, I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Rest assured that I only recommend products that I love from companies that I trust. **Furthermore, I am not a medical professional and nothing in this post should be taken as medical advice. I am simply a mother who has been there and lived to tell the tale.

How to Avoid a Postpartum Depression Relapse

Identify your triggers

Find out what factors tend to make you feel more depressed.  Keeping a journal can help with this.  On days when you are feeling extra sad or anxious – write down things you’ve done recently, how you were feeling, conversations you had, medications you’ve been taking, what the weather was like, and so on.  Postpartum depression triggers can be different for everyone.

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Eliminate the problem

I know, it’s easier said than done.  If we could all get rid of pain and stress, then the world would be a better place.  Try keeping track of your sleep patterns and monthly mood fluctuations to help you notice patterns and triggers.  But once you’ve identified your specific trigger(s), your next goal will be to work at ways to fix that issue in your life.

If you’re uncertain of where to begin to fix the problems affecting your mental health, then speaking to a therapist can help.  Sometimes, it’s difficult to determine the root cause of our symptoms on our own.  Cognitive behavior therapy is a great exercise to help with this.  There are also licensed online psychiatrists available that you can have video chat sessions with.

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Take care of yourself

Mothers are infamous for not taking proper care of themselves.  Self care is not just a suggestion, it plays a huge role in avoiding a postpartum depression relapse.  Taking time to relieve stress, sleep well, eat properly, exercise and meditate will ensure that you stay one step ahead.  You can even create your own, dedicated self-care space to escape to when you start feeling low.

Try this 30 Day Self-Care Challenge from This Mama Needs Chocolate!

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Stick to your treatment plan

Of course you’re going to be feeling great after starting a round of anti-depressants or therapy, but that doesn’t mean it’s done it’s job and now you can stop.  Any changes to your treatment plan should always be discussed with your doctor, don’t assume that you no longer need treatment just because you’ve been free of postpartum depression symptoms for months.

Seeking treatment for postpartum depression is important.  Don’t assume that it will go away on it’s own.  Getting an official diagnosis of postpartum depression can be empowering.  Knowing that you suffer from a mental health condition can validate everything that you  are feeling and help you to accept that this is not your fault.

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Find someone to confide in

If you didn’t tell anyone you had postpartum depression the first time it happened, then it’s likely you will also choose to suffer silently in the event of a relapse.  Find someone that you can talk to about your feelings.  It can be someone close to you, a complete stranger or a support group, as long as they will encourage you to speak up and seek help.

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Be proactive

As much as you might try to eliminate stress and other triggers, life still happens and much of it is out of our control.  Try your best to plan ahead for situations that overwhelm you.  If being locked inside the house during the winter months makes you feel dreary, plan a vacation.  If you’re dreading the stress of juggling all the kids during summer vacation, hire someone to help you.  Being prepared for a postpartum depression relapse may even be enough to make you feel like you can handle it, should it hit.

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Don’t get discouraged

Sometimes, having a postpartum depression relapse is unavoidable.  It doesn’t mean that you have failed or that you will never get better.  While you may suffer more relapses in the future, each one will be easier to get through as long as you don’t let it get the best of you.  While postpartum depression is a long term battle, it doesn’t mean that you will need to fight it forever.  With the right treatment, you can live symptom free.

One Year Postpartum & Still Depressed
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Take away it’s power

As long as your postpartum depression is a secret – it controls you.  If you’re constantly afraid of a relapse happening, then it has power over you.  The only way to take away it’s power is by accepting and acknowledging it.  Tell everyone that you have postpartum depression and that there’s a chance you could suffer a relapse.  Then you won’t have it hanging over your head, and you won’t have to suffer alone.  Share your story, consider becoming an advocate for postpartum depression awareness, joining a maternal mental health movement or blogging about it.

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Remember that it’s not about them

If you didn’t know that a postpartum depression relapse was even possible, then chances are, neither did they.  “They” being your loved ones, your spouse, family or friends – even your own children.  Once you start feeling better, others will assume that you’re cured.  And if you suffer a relapse, you will be reluctant to tell them for fear of disappointing them.  But it’s not about them, it’s about you and your health, and that’s far more important.

So before you even suffer from a relapse, tell your loved ones that it’s possible this could happen.  Ask them to help you eliminate your triggers and watch for symptoms that your postpartum depression is returning.  Don’t feel guilty or selfish because this is your life.  It might be in a mother’s nature to put others before themselves, but when it comes to postpartum depression – you come first.

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Contrary to popular belief, postpartum depression does not go away on it’s own.  And a postpartum depression relapse does not only happen when you have another baby (although that can be a trigger).  Many mothers find themselves battling the symptoms of depression years after giving birth.  It’s discouraging and annoying and definitely unfair, but with the right self care routine and treatment plan, it doesn’t have to ruin your life.

Ultimately, the worst thing you can do about it, is nothing.


How to Avoid a Postpartum Depression Relapse