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Postpartum Depression Peaks a Lot Later Than You Think

Posted by on Jul. 25, 2014 at 8:48 AM
  • 8 Replies

Postpartum Depression Peaks a Lot Later Than You Think

by Judy Dutton

Like most moms, I'd heard about postpartum depression, and was relieved when -- aside from a few weepy moments following the birth of my daughter -- it appeared I'd been spared. Yet a new study argues that even though my daughter is now four, the spectre of postpartum depression isn't long gone, but more imminent than ever.

After examining long-term data on over 1500 women who'd given birth, researchers from the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute in Australia found that postpartum depression peaks at four years after a child's birth. At this point, the prevalence of depressive symptoms in moms was 14.5 percent, higher than at any point in the first 12 months postpartum. The study also found that postpartum depression is even more common if the mom has only one child.

Given my own daughter is four and an only child, this study had me worried. After all, at four, most kids can pretty much feed and dress themselves, wipe their own butts... so shouldn’t moms feel like they’re seeing the light at the end of a four-year tunnel? Yet perhaps that’s the very reason depression can set in: With a child’s growing independence, moms may feel less useful and lacking in purpose.

My daughter is a prime example of this: At four, rather than clinging to  me every second, she's begun shutting her bedroom door in my face, asking for "privacy," and seeming way more excited to spend time with her friends than with me. After years of being deprived of me-time, I suddenly have plenty of it, which allows me to sit back and actually look at my life... and what I see is not necessarily so pretty.

"It is the decrease in chaos that raises many questions: Do I want more kids? Do I want to work? Am I happy in my marriage? What now?" says Lauren Napolitano, Psy.D., a licensed psychologist and author of the upcoming book Over-Scheduled & Under-Sexed: How Busyness is Destroying Your Marriage. Many experts, it turns out, say this rise in depression once kids turn four makes perfect sense.

"Growing independence in children allows the woman to focus on herself, and, if her own personal happiness is challenged, she may feel more depressed than when she was caregiving more intensely for her child," says Claudia Luiz, a psychoanalyst and author of Where's My Sanity? "In all likelihood, this depression would resurface again during empty-nest syndrome."

The lesson I took home from this study? That moms shouldn't put their lives on hold for the sake of their kids. Because if they do, they could end up depressed once their kids are grown, even as early as four. As a mom who often felt guilty over the past four years for tearing myself away from my daughter to work or see my friends, this study brings me some measure of relief. It suggests that all my "selfish" me-time may have served an important purpose as a depression deterrent. And that, of course, makes me happy.


Did you get depressed when your child turned four?

Image via Gabriela Camerotti/Flickr

by on Jul. 25, 2014 at 8:48 AM
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Replies (1-8):
by Silver Member on Jul. 25, 2014 at 9:32 AM

No I got depressed when he turned 2 and have struggled ever since. He's 6 now and I take meds/am in therapy.

by on Jul. 25, 2014 at 9:40 AM
I agree. I feel alot lately that I should be doing more with the kids, bit honestly they dont really care so much these days.
Instead I now have hobbies.
Who would have ever thought Id have time for a hobby? Edpecially after doing the baby/toddler thing for the last decade.
by Peggy on Jul. 25, 2014 at 4:49 PM

Four years after?  I never knew that.

by Member on Jul. 25, 2014 at 5:17 PM
I struggled up until age 4.5. My youngest is 4.5 and my horrible depression is finally going away. The past 4.5 years have been horrible! Been counting down for him to reach 5 and kindergarten!
by Gold Member on Jul. 26, 2014 at 12:08 AM

Wow, so it's pretty much depression brought on by having a baby and it turns chronic, never would have thought that. 

by Group Admin on Jul. 26, 2014 at 8:16 AM

 I had ppd after my first but it came on suddenly.

by Anonymous 1 on Jul. 30, 2014 at 10:50 PM
My daughter will be turning two in august.I lost my weekly therapy because I fell between the cracks if charitycare and my husbands cat recently passed away,I am seven mths sober,and will be legal this year after a long period of waiting because my baby's father had no interest in legalizing me because of the things I was involved in in the past.tonight,I got so angry at my husband,he was home late as usual,he works long hours,I was so mad,because I feel like I don't know what future I will have.he always had a career and I was just an uneducated survivor with too many dreams at a bad times in history.i thought the only way I could make him suffer,was to take me and my daughter out if this world.i felt myself thinking this,as though it's a way to hurt him and to end my pain.because if I leave him I feel powerless and if I stay I feel powerless.i don't trust after all I've seen in life.i thought I would write this post,because I'm putting on a brace face since losing my therapy,and then my cat,but it's been so hard.i want my daughter to not just gave a mommy who's there,but one who feels empowered.i feel like everyone around me who has babies are all educated and career women,and that no one thinks being with ur child full time anymore as a mother is of any value makes me wonder...about all my decisions in life. I feel like a failure and a loser.
by Anonymous 2 on Jul. 30, 2014 at 10:55 PM
Maybe the 4 year PPD is in there with everything else. I've had mild depression since I found out my son has autism and I think I may have PTSD equal to that of a combat soldier. (Studies have been done and the only job as stressful and traumatic as dealing with an asd is a combat soldier)
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