Postpartum Depression Can Linger for Years, Study Says

Postpartum depression can last a lot longer than a few months.

By: Amanda Mushro


Stressed mother holding her baby.

Photo by: SolStock


While becoming a parent is wonderful and amazing, it’s also exhausting and really hard. Those early days of motherhood can really take a toll on your mental health. In recent years, we’ve made huge strides to help support new mothers, including more frequent postpartum screenings and offering treatments for depression and anxiety.

It’s estimated that one in seven new mothers will suffer from postpartum depression during the first year of their baby’s life. However, a new study suggests the effects of postpartum depression can linger much longer than the first year of motherhood.

According to a new study that looked at 5,000 women who recently had babies, approximately one in four women will experience high levels of depressive symptoms at some point in the three years after giving birth. Other women who participated in the study reported experiencing low levels of depression throughout the three-year span.

Currently, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that pediatricians screen new mothers for postpartum depression during the first six months at their baby’s routine checkups. Because pediatricians are seeing new moms more often during this time, they are able to talk to them about how they are feeling and managing their mental health. However, this new study suggests we need to support our new moms for much longer.

"Based on our data, I'd say screening could continue for two years," said lead researcher Leslie Putnick, who is a staff scientist at the U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

The study also considered how pediatricians are limited when it comes to how much they can help mothers with postpartum. These doctors don’t have the women’s medical records and appointments often focus on the baby and their needs, leaving mothers unchecked and not getting the help they need.

Important to note, researchers said the study’s participants were primarily white, non-Hispanic mothers. They added that future studies should include a more diverse population to provide more inclusive data on postpartum depression in order to help all women during this period.

If you are a new mom or have been a mom for a few years, and you need to talk to someone about your mental health, we encourage you to speak with your doctor, pediatrician and family to get the help and support you deserve.

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