Last week we shared Christina’s story about her unexpected struggle with postpartum anxiety. I had the opportunity to meet her at a local group for expecting moms and, as I spoke with her, I was struck by how blindsided she was by her symptoms. She knew nothing about the possibility of developing anxiety during the postpartum period. Even though she knew about the risk of postpartum depression, she had never even heard of postpartum anxiety. We have to do better than this for new moms and we need to start by educating them when they’re pregnant. Today I want to follow up on her story and provide some information and resources about postpartum anxiety.
Many moms report the onset of postpartum anxiety as a confusing time. They describe a sense of knowing something isn’t right, but not necessarily feeling like they’re dealing with typical symptoms of depression. This, coupled with not having heard about the possibility of postpartum anxiety, can contribute to a hesitancy to seek help. Keep in mind that it’s also possible to experience both postpartum depression and anxiety at the same time.
Symptoms of Postpartum Anxiety (you can read in more detail here at Postpartum Progress)
- Racing thoughts
- The need be doing something all the time; restless
- Feeling worried
- Scary or disturbing thoughts
- Fear of being alone with baby
- Constantly checking that you’ve done things (i.e. locked the house)
- Physical symptoms like a racing heart, sweating – panic attacks
- Trouble sleeping
- Loss of appetite
- Sense of dread
What you can do if you’re worried about your symptoms
- Tell somebody: Find anybody to talk to and start talking right away. This will help open the door for you to seek the professional support that you need.
- Call your care provider and make an appointment: You can describe your symptoms and get more information on how to proceed.
- Seek professional support from a qualified professional psychologist: Different people respond best to different forms of therapy. These providers can help with cognitive-behavioral therapy, mindfulness exercises, relaxation ideas, techniques for managing panic attacks, and more.
- Consider medication based on care provider recommendations: If your anxiety is more extreme and/or these other therapies aren’t helping, you might consider medication. There are types that can be taken safely while breastfeeding. Here is an article with more information on medication safety and breastfeeding.
- Trust your instincts: If you feel like something isn’t right, err on the side of caution and seek support.
- Try to be brave: remember that asking for help and seeking support is a sign of strength and remind yourself that you and your baby will be better for it.
Postpartum anxiety is treatable. Please remember that get the support that you need. If you’ve experienced postpartum anxiety, please consider sharing your story with us. Hearing others’ stories can often help new moms in the same situation feel supported to reach out and get the help that they need.