Maternal Depression Four Years Out: It's Worse When You Think It'll Be Better

3 years ago

2004 was the year my daughter was born. 2008 was the year I found myself in intensive therapy and starting my first serious experience with antidepressants. I was a mess: lashing out at my husband, crying in conference rooms at my then-job, breaking down sobbing while giving my daughter a bath and then feeling terribly guilty for letting her see me fall apart. I attributed it to our move to the suburbs, my husband's job, my daughter's still-refusal to sleep through the night ... really anything but PPD. I mean, four years out is a little late for that, right? Maybe not.

Credit Image: Francisco Carbajal on Flickr

A new study recently found maternal depression is more common at four years following childbirth than twelve months. And it's even more common if there's no additional child when the first child is four. According to the article:

Results show that almost one in three women reported depressive symptoms in the first four years after birth. The prevalence of depressive symptoms at four years postpartum was 14.5%, and was higher than at any time-point in the first 12 months postpartum.

What does this mean? For one, it means women need to continue to write and speak openly about their mental health. We need to find a way to safely talk about mental health in the workplace without fear of career retribution. Primary care doctors and OB-GYNs need to ask about mental health at regular check-ups and yearly girl-doctor visits. And moms—we need to reach out and ask for and accept help as our little ones grow up as much as we did when they were babies. Just because those little babies learn to wipe their own butts doesn't mean you don't still need support.

Does this finding resonate for you?


Rita Arens is the author of the young adult novel The Obvious Game & the deputy editor of Find more at

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