What is Postpartum Anxiety?
We hear a lot about Postpartum Depression. So much so, that it has become common nomenclature when talking about a period of difficulty a new mom might experience after giving birth. Your doctor will even ask you if you’re having feelings of sadness, loss of motivation, or irritability when you go in for your postpartum checkups, but often women check off all the "no" boxes because it’s not quite sadness they are feeling – it’s this constant worry and feeling of being on edge.
You wake up in the middle of the night and the first thought that races through your mind is if the baby is breathing so you have to go check. Then, your anxiety about being able to get enough sleep keeps you awake, leaving you exhausted and slightly panicky. You run an errand with your baby and constantly check the mirror to make sure she's okay. Baby gets the sniffles and your mind fast forwards straight to visions of the NICU, or worse. You suddenly can't watch tv shows that involve traumatic situations with children, because it makes your chest tight, your heart race, and your mind fill with worry.
If any of this sounds familiar, it could be helpful to know that Postpartum Depression has a cousin, and its name is Postpartum Anxiety. While it might not be nearly as talked about yet, it’s just as real to experience. Postpartum Anxiety is very simply best described as excessive worry surrounding your baby’s well-being and it can last long after the "baby" phase if left unattended.
Maybe you’re thinking that being vigilant about a helpless being is what ultimately helps you protect the helpless being. Maybe you're thinking that having concerns about taking care of a newborn is typical for moms with new babies. But, what happens if some of these thoughts are starting to feel like they’re taking over your life?
Some anxiety is to be expected and can even be healthy (hello, cat-like reflexes!). It’s typical - and totally normal - for worries to pop up. However, according to the American Pregnancy Association, about one in ten new moms will suffer from worry thoughts that do not so easily go away.
The thoughts might feel like they’re “stuck” in your brain on repeat or they might seem irrational (such as “if I don’t hold the baby through her naptime, something bad could happen”).
Emotional symptoms of Postpartum Anxiety can include racing thoughts, excessive worry, and lack of concentration. Physical symptoms might also appear such as dizziness, hot flashes, nausea, and rapid heartbeat.
When these thoughts and sensations linger and have an impact on how you function day-to-day, it’s important to know there is help.
You don’t have to live in a constant state of worry and fear; you DESERVE to have this time with your little one be all you imagined and more.
Finding a therapist who is familiar with treating Postpartum Anxiety and Depression is a great first step. A therapist who is trained in this specific area can help you learn ways to work with your worries and help free you from this state of fear, so that you can enjoy motherhood.
If you recognize yourself in these words, I see you and I want you to know - there is a name for what you are feeling, you are not alone, and as scary as this feels, there is hope! Please reach out for a free twenty minute consultation, and let's help you find the support you need.
Lora Dudek, LPC, specializes in working with women struggling with postpartum anxiety, including fears & obsessions, panic, irrational thinking, and the identity shift that motherhood brings. To schedule a free consultation, click here. Grace & Gratitude Counseling accepts BCBS PPO, self pay, or can help you utilize your out of network benefits.