Photo by Matthew Henry
You’re probably familiar with postpartum depression and know a little about it. Maybe you even know someone who’s battled postpartum depression. But what about postpartum anxiety?
Postpartum anxiety is actually very common. Below are 10 things to know about postpartum anxiety:
1. Anxiety, but don’t all new moms worry? Yes, but the difference between typical new mom worry and postpartum anxiety is the severity of the worry - how much the worry affects your day, your sleeping, your ability to do things or tendency to avoid certain things. A typical worry would be making a mistake, getting something wrong in caring for your baby. Despite this worry, you are able to move through your day relatively easily (or as easy as you can with a newborn). This thought doesn't stop you from making decisions and doing things. Whereas with postpartum anxiety, you may agonize over your decisions, doubting your choices and abilities as a mother. Instead of being scared of making a mistake, you imagine the worst case scenarios.
2. Troubling sleeping even when the baby is asleep
You have difficulty sleeping any time the baby is, even though you are exhausted. Even resting is hard to do. You feel like your mind is constantly going and you can’t shut it off. You lie in bed at night, checking the monitor often or may even get up and check on the baby several times.
There are things you need to be doing all the time. You worry about getting things done and believe that you will feel better if you just attend to all of them.
4. Postpartum anxiety can occur alone or with symptoms of postpartum depression.
Depression and anxiety are often connected. It’s very common for women to experience postpartum depression and also have anxiety. Other mothers will only experience postpartum anxiety.
5. Anxiety can begin during pregnancy and continue through postpartum.
The perinatal period (the time during pregnancy and 1st year after birth) is the time in women’s lives when they are most at risk of developing a mental health disorder. Postpartum depression is the most common complication of childbirth. Postpartum anxiety does not discriminate. It can develop in first-time moms or moms who have other children.
6. Scary thoughts
88% of new dads and 91% of new moms experience upsetting, scary thoughts about harm coming to their baby, their partner, or themselves. Many parents are able to shake these thoughts off and go on about their day. For some parents, these scary thoughts are difficult to move past. When this is the case, you feel very disturbed by the thoughts and can’t understand why you are having them. You may even feel ashamed of having these terrible thoughts and believe that you must not be a good mother.
7. Fear or being alone with your baby or fear of leaving your baby in someone else’s care, even trusted family members or friends
If you are fearful of being left alone with your baby, you are having a lot of doubts in your ability to care for him. You’re second guessing every decision you make and are terrified that you will do something wrong. If you are worried about leaving your baby with someone else, you are anxious that others will not do things the way you do. You may be worried about others interfering with the schedule you have created or that they will create a problem by doing something differently. You may also be worried about some harm coming to your baby and not being there to protect her.
8. Trouble leaving your home
The thought of leaving your home seems impossible. You don’t know how you can possibly make it out the door on time or how you can manage something going wrong out in public. This fear keeps you from going out, even though others are encouraging you to do so.
9. Physical symptoms such as headaches, stomach aches, panic attacks (racing heart, shortness of breath, dizziness)
Anxiety can present itself in physical ways in addition to all the worries spinning through your mind. You may feel like you cannot sit still or like you want to jump out of your skin.
10. Postpartum anxiety is treatable.
There are different treatment options available, including therapy, support groups, and medication. Please reach out to your healthcare provider if you are experiencing anxiety. She can discuss the different treatment options with you and give you referrals.
If your anxiety is getting in the way of you enjoying your life, please reach out for help. Contact me today to schedule an appointment.
Laura Winters, LCSW is a therapist specializing in infertility and prenatal/postpartum stress. Laura's practice is located in Chatham and Mountain Lakes, NJ.