Lately we have had moms getting in touch with us to ask, “Can I get Postpartum Depression (PPD) after the first year?” This is almost always followed by their own admission that their kids are above 1 year, but they do not still feel like themselves, and they wanted to know if we would help.
Granted, it is not possible to make a diagnosis over the phone, neither is it possible to offer a general statement for all of the moms who reach out to ask for help. To answer this question, it is imperative to define postpartum depression as one of the perinatal anxiety and mood disorders.
What is Postpartum depression?
A literature review on the WHO website defines postpartum depression as a common mood disorder that affects moms up to the first year after child birth. Contrary to popular belief, PPD does not just affect moms with newborns. Since it lasts up to a year after birth, it can affect moms whose kids are way past the infancy stage. Additionally, the ‘one year after delivery’ time frame is not cast in stone either.
There is mounting evidence that in many cases, PPD could be the result of mental illness that remained undiagnosed before the pregnancy. An article in the Journal of Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience underpins these findings:
The onset of PPD is usually within the first few months after childbirth, although some women report onset of symptoms during pregnancy.
For some moms, antenatal depression (also known as pregnancy depression) that is left untreated may also progress to PPD. When you consider the numerous changes that a woman’s body goes through during the postpartum period, it is easy to see why pre-existing mental illness can get severe. These changes include drastic hormonal changes, lack of sleep, lochia, breastfeeding and all the typical stressors that come with new motherhood.
The Postpartum Period
According to Postpartum Progress, the use of prepartum and postpartum typically refers to the period during pregnancy and in the year after delivery. It is important, however, to mention that certain stressors may lead to the characteristic symptoms of PPD even after the one year mark. These stressors may include sleep deprivation, weaning from breastfeeding, financial constraints and abuse among others.
As Postpartum Progress explains, “A postpartum episode of depression or anxiety can be triggered by one or more of the above. While they aren’t aware of this when they first call, most of these moms can trace their initial symptoms back to the earliest moments of motherhood.”
Why is all this important? It matters that moms have this information. It is easy to feel resigned to fate – the fate of not been able to enjoy motherhood. Some moms will even wonder whether they are ‘too silly’ or ‘too emotional’ to ask for help and support. Time continues to pass by, with each day bringing more overwhelm and anxiety.
How will I know whether it is Postpartum Depression or the Baby Blues?
The truth is that there is no shame in having Postpartum depression, whether you are a mama to a newborn or a one-year old. It doesn’t matter what age your baby is – if you feel like you need help it is best to talk to someone.
Many new moms will often wonder if what they are experiencing is the baby blues or postpartum depression. We have previously covered this topic, which you can read in this post. But to provide a rundown, the baby blues are a short-lived condition in which a new mom may feel emotional/ overwhelmed/ weepy after having a baby. This condition typically lasts for about two weeks, and therefore requires no treatment.
PPD however, is more intense and interferes with a mom’s ability to carry out daily activities and bond with her baby. PPD lasts up to a year (or longer if undiagnosed), and therefore requires medical attention. It is also one of the most common maternal mental illnesses, affecting about 1 in every 7 mothers. Many moms tend to think that PPD is ‘not that severe’ and ‘will pass on its own’. This is not true, as moms with PPD need help and support to make a recovery.