More mothers are now becoming aware of postpartum depression…
……BUT postpartum anxiety during and after pregnancy is growing more
common and may be overlooked.
Today we will put the spotlight on postpartum anxiety.
Approximately 10% of new moms experience anxiety……
…and this represents the moms that actually report this!
Recent studies show that this has doubled due to the pandemic and that now
20% of mothers are experiencing postpartum anxiety.
Feelings of anxiety can also co-exist with postpartum depression which
occurs in 20% of women postpartum.
It is daunting to come home with a little human and realize you are in
charge of this tiny life.
No wonder most parents are scared and worried during this time!
Thoughts may run through your head like: is my baby breathing, sleeping
enough, sleeping too much, eating enough, eating too much, is the belly
button okay, is poop looking normal…(okay you get it!)
The sudden drop in estrogen and progesterone after delivery can lead to a
greater sensitivity to stress for moms. Remember the postpartum brain
changes are there to help you with a little adaptive worry/ anxiety in
order to transition to taking care of a new life instead of just only
This is normal!
Postpartum anxiety is different. Feelings are more intense and persistent
than just new mom worries. Most moms (80%) will experience postpartum blues
which includes symptoms of anxiety. But if symptoms last longer than 2
weeks or are more intense you could have postpartum anxiety.
Let’s go through some common symptoms:
Racing thoughts – Thoughts keep running through your brain without being
able to shut them off.
Worrying – You feel constantly on edge. Although you know the concerns are
excessive it doesn’t stop you from worrying. You jump from one worry to
another. Usually, the worries are about the wellbeing of the baby or the
Lack of concentration – It’s hard to keep your focus on one thing. You may
have a hard time thinking clearly. You may also have some difficulty with
Restlessness – Even though you are tired, you are not able to relax or
Sleep disturbance – Yes, you have been told to sleep when the baby sleeps.
But you just can’t seem to. Or if you do get some shut eye , you don’t feel
energized when you awake.
Irritability – You appear fine to friends and other family , but your
partner may experience most of your irritability.
Physical tension – Your feel tense in your muscles which could lead to
neck, shoulder and back pain. You may also experience rapid heartbeat,
dizziness, hot flashes, and nausea.
Appetite disturbance- You may have no desire to eat or more.
If you have some of these symptoms for most of the day or more than a
couple weeks after birth, you probably have postpartum anxiety. It is
important to seek support and get evaluated. You should be screened for
postpartum anxiety and other medical conditions.
Symptoms starting anytime in the first year after delivery is considered to
be postpartum anxiety. However, it can last much longer if not appropriately
addressed and will not go away on its own.
Sometimes symptoms may even begin during pregnancy. Nowadays pregnant women
are bombarding with so much advice to “do this and don’t do that” in order
to get a perfect baby. It’s no wonder that you can feel worried and
It is important to remember that this is NOT something brought on by doing
or not doing something. This is not forever- with knowledge and treatment
you WILL feel better.
Postpartum anxiety can occur to anyone!
Here are some factors that may increase your chance:
A positive history of depression or anxiety, either during
pregnancy or at other times
Family history of depression or anxiety
Personal history PMS or premenstrual dysphoric disorder
“Type A” personality types
A challenging pregnancy or birth experience
Having twins or other multiples
Experiencing problems in the relationship with their partner
Experiencing monetary issues
Getting little or no assistance from family or friends to help look
after the baby
Prior miscarriage or stillbirth
Having a preemie or a baby with health issues
Social myths and pressure on being the “perfect” moms
If you have some the above factors take stock on how you are feeling and be
proactive regarding your emotional and mental wellness.
Here are some tips to stay ahead:
Get the sleep you need, especially in the first few weeks.
Don’t be hesitant to ask for support and help from friends/family.
Wouldn’t you help a friend if they asked?
Journal from day 1. Doesn’t have to be a long time. Doesn’t have to
be fancy. Don’t think of it as a keepsake but as a way for you to
engage in your own thoughts/ emotions as you transition to this new
role of motherhood.
Meditation and mindfulness techniques
Get some sunshine
TRUE! Mother-child bonding is essential for the baby's emotional and
cognitive development, and becoming close to the baby is a big part of that
bonding. If you are experiencing anxiety during pregnancy or after birth,
it can be hard to become close to the baby. Early treatment is important
for the mother, the baby, and the rest of the family. The quicker you
start, the faster you will begin to feel much better.
Untreated and undiagnosed anxiety disorder can last years and can continue
to take a toll on your family and your wellness.
What can you do to treat your anxiety?
Depending on if it is mild, moderate or severe the following can help:
Get support: Sometimes talking to a friend or family member can be helpful
or try joining a peer support group to share with
Get relaxed: Meditation and mindfulness exercise can help for mild anxiety
Get therapy: Cognitive behavioral therapy (CPT) is very effective and the
most studied. Other types of therapy such as mindfulness cognitive therapy
or dialectical behavioral therapy may also be helpful.
Get meds: Antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs known as SSRIs. SSRIs can
be used if breastfeeding.
Remember you are not alone, and it is not your fault!
As many as 1 out of 5 moms have postpartum anxiety.
The best thing you can do for yourself and your baby is to be aware of and
recognize the symptoms and get the support you need.
If you have any factors that can increase your chance of having postpartum
anxiety- be proactive to take care of your emotional/mental wellness.
*Please call your healthcare provider if you want to get screened or need
support or as always one of the MaternalWell specialists can help.