Postpartum depression: symptoms, how long does it last, how to cope

Pregnancy, childbirth and the first months after the birth of the baby – physically and emotionally difficult period when women experience high stress. Severe stress can lead to the development of anxious or depressive episodes – postpartum depression.

The prevalence of this condition, according to various studies, ranges from 8 to 17.5 percent. Most agree on a figure of 13 percent.

Depression affects both the physical and psychological state of a woman.

At the same time, modern medicine considers moderate manifestations of postpartum depression in the first days of the postpartum period as a natural reaction of the body to childbirth and motherhood.

Postpartum depression: symptoms, how long does it last, how to cope

Causes of postpartum depression

  1. Hormonal background changes: the number of female sex.

  2. Hormones and thyroid hormones are drastically reduced. Followed by changes in circulating blood volume and metabolism. These physiological features affect the psychological state of the laboring woman.

  3. The transition to the role of mother inspires much anxiety and worry.

  4. Physical fatigue and lack of sleep.

  5. Fear of losing their professional status and losing their career. If the woman held a high position before childbirth, it will now be difficult for her to accept that her social status will be limited to motherhood for an extended period of time.

  6. Social isolation: women who were active in the community before childbirth find it difficult to cope with their new situation. Restriction of social contacts, forced withdrawal may lead to imbalance.

  7. Changes in appearance and sexual relationships. Many women experience sexual problems and anorgasmia for a year after childbirth.

  8. Loss of financial independence.

  9. Difficulties in breastfeeding.

  10. Pain after childbirth or cesarean section. There are studies proving that difficulties in childbirth can provoke the development of depression.

Who is in the risk group?

  1. Most often (in 50% of cases), postpartum depression affects women who have had depressive episodes before.
  2. The mother’s age also affects: young mothers under 18 are more at risk, as well as women after 35.
  3. Researchers have identified certain personality traits that may serve as triggers. This emotional immaturity, high levels of anxiety with hypersensitivity to external influences, excessive excitability and impulsivity, hyperresponsibility and perfectionism. More often than others, postpartum depression affects women with low self-esteem, experiencing difficulties with the expression of emotions and emotional regulation.
  4. Domestic violence is another risk factor. More than 50% of women diagnosed with postpartum depression have experienced violence from family members.
  5. The ground for the emergence of postpartum depression can be pathology and features in the health condition of the child born.
  6. Women who did not plan the pregnancy are most often affected.
  7. Unhappy family environment, lack of support and help from relatives, conflicts aggravate the condition of women after childbirth.
  8. Stress in the third trimester of pregnancy may be a triggering factor.

Symptoms and signs of postpartum depression

Postpartum depression: symptoms, how long does it last, how to cope

During postpartum depression, a woman experiences emotional, cognitive and somatic disturbances.


In the first place in the emotional state is a decrease in mood and a sense of deep longing. The baby, even if it was long-awaited, is not joyful, the need to care for it causes irritation and anger.

Mood swings from day to day for at least 2 weeks.

Sadness and depression are accompanied by a loss of interest in life and a lack of pleasure from previously enjoyable activities. Postpartum women experience increased anxiety and restlessness that may turn into panic attacks. Anxiety is most often related to the fear of not being able to cope with the role of mother. A woman is afraid to be alone with her baby. Anxiety may turn to irritability and aggression directed at family members and the baby.

The woman’s energy becomes less and less with each passing day, she quickly tires, her speech slows down, and her sleep and appetite are disturbed.

Decreased self-esteem. Suicidal thoughts emerge. The future is seen in black. Negative outlook on life prospects. Guilt (“I’m a bad mother”) and self-deprecation.


  1. Decreased concentration and difficulty in making sense of things.

  2. Difficulties in decision making.

  3. Disturbances in thinking functions.


  1. Weight gain or loss caused by appetite disorders.

  2. Insomnia and other sleep disorders.

  3. Loss of hair, dry skin, brittle nails.

  4. Pain in different parts of the body.

  5. Tachycardia and high blood pressure.

  6. Lactation problems.

  7. Changes in behavior

  8. A woman stops taking care of her appearance.

  9. Avoids communication. Increasingly ignores and neglects family members. Intimate relationships may disappear.

The newborn suffers most in this situation: emotional contact is disrupted, which is very important for the mental health of the child in the future; poor care leads to the baby becoming ill more often and gaining weight poorly.

The psychological state of the mother also affects how the spouse will learn the role of the father. The more pronounced the depressive symptoms in a woman, the more likely it is that the father of the baby will be emotionally estranged from the baby.

Types of depressive states

Depression in women in childbirth can be divided into several types according to their severity.

Every woman experiences certain mental changes after childbirth, but not all of them will be depression. Some feeling of sadness or loss is considered a normal reaction and is found in 80 per cent of women. This condition is referred to in psychological literature as the “postpartum blues,” or “maternity sadness syndrome”. As the name suggests, this syndrome manifests itself in a feeling of depression and sadness, the woman feels insecure, often cries. This condition occurs in the first days after childbirth and usually passes within a week. By this time, hormonal balance has stabilized, the new mother gradually adapts to the situation. The support and care of loved ones will be the best medicine for the woman in labor.

If bouts of sadness and helplessness, emotional swings and other symptoms do not go away for more than two weeks, and the emotional state only worsens, then we are already talking about a mild form of depression. Specialist counseling may be needed in this case.

Chronic depression is when symptoms persist for a year or more. In this case, the assistance of a psychotherapist or psychiatrist is necessary.


Postpartum depression: symptoms, how long it lasts, how to cope

The severity of the development of postpartum moping depends largely on the woman’s own behavior and attitude toward the situation.

The following tips can help ease your emotional state.

  1. Find time to be alone with yourself. Your husband, nurse, grandmother, grandfather, or supportive girlfriend is sure to agree to relieve you of your maternal responsibilities for a period of time. The main thing is not to be shy about asking for help. You need time away from your baby. It’s best to get out of the house – confined spaces weigh on the psyche.

  2. Don’t try to do everything. Domestic duties, which before the birth of a child, you performed alone, is no longer under your power alone. So distribute them among the rest of the household and do not try to be the perfect hostess. If you were able to do it before, now your main concern is you and your baby, and not the exemplary cleanliness of the house. You have to put up with the chaos that reigns around you.

  3. Use the time when the child is asleep to rest.It’s best to sleep too, or just lie down. You can read a book or take a bath with relaxing oils.

  4. Share your worries with your loved ones. Being patient and pretending that you’re okay is not a good idea. Support and care from others in your immediate environment is essential during this difficult time. If you keep the problems inside, people around you will not be able to help you. And their task at this point is to create the most comfortable environment for you.

  5. Emotional contact with your newbornalso helps relieve tension. Play with your baby more often, smile at him, take him in your arms.

  6. Get rid of unrealistic ideas about motherhood. There is a belief in our collective consciousness that a woman, by definition, must be able to handle a baby. Moreover, the “maternal instinct” compensates for sleep deprivation, difficulties in adapting, and the inability to devote time to oneself. Actually, the skills of handling a newborn must be mastered like any other, and unconditional love for a child does not always appear in the first hours after birth. Every mother has difficulties, so forget the term “perfect mother” and try to become just “good enough.

  7. Now you need to take care of yourself just as much as your baby. Because your physical and psychological well-being is crucial to his well-being.


Dobryakov Y.v., Zashchirinskaya O.v. – “Perinatal Psychology.”


Argunova I. a. Postpartum depression. At the interface of general practice, obstetrics and psychiatry.

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