Motherhood is an indescribable experience. You aren’t able to understand it until you become a mother. And while it has its incredible ups, motherhood also has its downs. New mothers especially are in for a whirlwind, as there are many mental illnesses that thrive once a baby is born. Last week we opened up a dialogue about postpartum depression. And in keeping the theme, this week we are diving into the topic of postpartum anxiety. It is not uncommon to become an anxious mother. So keep reading to learn more about this common experience.
What is Postpartum Anxiety?
Postpartum anxiety (or PPA) affects roughly 10% of new mothers. The women may just experience anxiety or they can experience anxiety coupled with depression. PPA can also leave a mother with panic attacks, more commonly known as postpartum panic disorder.
Good news though. Postpartum anxiety is treatable. Often it will subside once the right treatment regime is found.
Postpartum Anxiety Symptoms
You may have postpartum anxiety or postpartum OCD if you have had a baby within the last 12 months and are experiencing some of these symptoms:
- You have racing thoughts. Your mind is loud and you can’t quiet it. Relaxing is difficult.
- You feel like you have to be doing something at all times. Cleaning. Working. Entertaining and checking on the baby. The list never ends.
- You are worried. Really worried. All of the time. You ask yourself, “Am I doing this right? Will my husband come home from his trip? Will the baby wake up? Is the baby eating enough?”
- You can’t be reassured. Nothing seems to help.
- You may be having disturbing thoughts. Scary thoughts that make you wonder whether you are the person you thought you were. They fly into your head. You know they aren’t factual. But they terrify you and they won’t go away.
- Scary thoughts are entering your mind. You are afraid to be alone with your baby. Things that could potentially cause harm also scare you. From kitchen knives to stairs, and you avoid them like the plague.
- Your brain is full of worry. And you feel the need to check things constantly. “Did I lock the door? Did I lock the car? Is the oven off? Is the baby breathing?”
- You may be having physical symptoms. These can include stomach cramps, headaches, shakiness, or nausea. You might even have panic attacks.
- Eating is difficult. You have no appetite.
- Sleeping is difficult too. You are so, so tired, but you can’t sleep.
- You feel a constant sense of dread. Like something terrible is going to happen.
- You are afraid that if you reach out to help people will judge you. Or that your baby will be taken away.
For more symptoms, click here.
So You’re an Anxious Mother. Now What?
When we talked about postpartum depression, we mentioned that the “baby blues” symptoms usually last for two weeks. Unfortunately, postpartum anxiety usually doesn’t go away on its own. It’s of the utmost importance that you seek help if the anxiety is disrupting your sleep. It’s also important to seek help if the worries take over your thoughts.
If you are feeling overwhelmed with anxiety, please talk to your OB-GYN or pediatrician. Ask for a referral for a therapist who has experience with perinatal mood disorders. You could also seek the help of a psychologist who specializes in CBT. These experts can teach you relaxation techniques. Some of these include meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, and mindfulness. As most anxiety escalates at night, these tools can prepare you for a good night’s sleep. Exercise can also bring relief, as endorphins promote happiness.
What About Medication?
The above-mentioned skills don’t always work. Sometimes the anxiety is too intense for these techniques alone. Through the use of these therapy techniques and medication, anxiety can be successfully treated. Regardless of what level your anxiety is, it’s better to seek help sooner rather than later. Think of it this way, taking care of yourself is taking care of your baby.
The Associates at CPA Want to Help!
Like last week, we first want to disclaim that you should discuss your concerns with your healthcare provider as soon as possible. This could be your family doctor, your OB/GYN, or a public health nurse. There are many forms of postpartum treatment, and we have discussed many of these tools in our blog posts. Such examples are focusing on mindfulness, cognitive behavior therapy, and dialectic behavior therapy.
If you are an anxious mother, we want to remind you of the critical importance of sharing how you are feeling with your partner and family. Building a network of trust and support is a complete game-changer. We want to be part of that support group. Cristina Panaccione and Associates Counseling has two locations in the South Hills of Pittsburgh. We are currently accepting a limited number of new patients, so check out our videos to learn more about how we can help you navigate postpartum anxiety.
* This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Please contact a medical professional for advice.
Kristen Brozek is a masters level therapist with a degree in counseling psychology from Chatham University. Her clinical experiences includes working with those suffering from substance abuse, depression, anxiety, relationship and family struggles, grief, bipolar disorder, paranoia, and PTSD. It is her goal to aid her clients in discovering their best selves and enhancing their ability to live the life they most desire.