Experiencing Postpartum Depression When Your Child Is Older

Frustrated woman working on a laptop while her young son looks on in the background

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Many women may think that postpartum depression can only happen to mothers when their babies are very young, such as the newborn stage or even under six months. But women may feel the effects of postpartum depression well after their baby's birth, even when the baby is more than a year old.

And as more and more women are opening up about their experiences with postpartum depression, we are learning that the disorder can affect women very differently.

Actress Hayden Panettiere, for example, publicly sought professional treatment in a mental health facility when her daughter was more than eight months old. “The postpartum depression I have been experiencing has impacted every aspect of my life,” she tweeted. “Rather than stay stuck due to unhealthy coping mechanisms I have chosen to take time to reflect holistically on my health and life. Wish me luck!”

When Can Postpartum Depression Occur?

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists explains that postpartum depression can occur in women up until their baby's first birthday. And obviously, there is no hard and fast rule about that one year mark, either. Despite its name, postpartum depression is not just a disorder that happens to mothers of newborns. 

There is even more evidence that postpartum depression can actually be a manifestation of untreated depression before pregnancy, so it may be a mental health issue that grows more severe due to the hormonal fluctuations, sleep deprivation, and the stress of new motherhood. Some new mothers experience ​depression after they wean their babies from breastfeeding, which for many women doesn't occur until after the baby is a one-year-old or older.

We still don't understand exactly how or why some women get postpartum depression and there are many factors that can contribute to it. It doesn't matter how old your baby is--if you are experiencing symptoms, it is always best to talk to a doctor about what you are going through. In fact, in 2019 the FDA approved Zulresso, the first such drug specifically approved for postpartum depression. If you are coping with postpartum depression, you do have options that can help.

Signs of Postpartum Depression

You should keep in mind that there are very real differences between postpartum depression and the postpartum "blues." It is normal to experience a week or two of feeling "out of sorts" or feeling a little extra weepy or emotional after having a baby.

But anything that lasts longer than two weeks postpartum and is interfering with daily activities warrants professional help and guidance. Many women think that their postpartum depression is "not that bad" or that it will go away on its own and may delay treatment unnecessarily. However, postpartum depression is common, affecting roughly one in seven women.

One of the hardest parts about postpartum depression is not recognizing it when it's happening; women may think it's normal for new mothers to feel constantly sad or tired. But while it's definitely a life-changing experience, having a baby does not mean that you need to be miserable.

When to Seek Help

If you are having any of the following symptoms, please seek help immediately or call a postpartum depression hotline:

  • Loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy
  • Avoiding social interaction
  • Excessive mood swings 
  • Crying or a feeling of hopeless/sadness
  • Constant guilt
  • Feeling like you aren't a good mother
  • Any feeling that you want to hurt your baby or hurt yourself
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Article Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Ghaedrahmati M, Kazemi A, Kheirabadi G, Ebrahimi A, Bahrami M. Postpartum depression risk factors: A narrative review. J Educ Health Promot. 2017;6:60. doi:10.4103%2Fjehp.jehp_9_16

  2. Stuart-parrigon K, Stuart S. Perinatal depression: an update and overview. Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2014;16(9):468. doi:10.1007%2Fs11920-014-0468-6

Additional Reading
  • American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2013). FAQ: Postpartum depression. Retrieved from https://www.acog.org/-/media/For-Patients/faq091.pdf?dmc=1&ts=20160523T1009470486
  • Postpartum Support International. (2016). Postpartum support. Retrieved from http://www.postpartum.net