One in eight women is at risk for postpartum anxiety, an increased risk throughout the first year after birth. More than 50% of women who develop a form of postnatal depression do not see a doctor and do not receive specialized treatment.
The stigma associated with mental illness is the most important obstacle in seeking medical help, and lack of proper treatment often leads to aggravation and complication of postpartum anxiety, a cousin of the postpartum depression.
What is postpartum anxiety
Life after birth can be stressful and almost any new mother worries and is exposed to anxiety.
We can talk about postnatal anxiety when the new mother is completely overwhelmed by thoughts about the baby. These thoughts amplify so much that they affect his daily life. The condition causes them to feel a constant, paralyzing feeling of fear.
Experts distinguish between two types of anxiety: one related to the fear of hurting the baby by mistake (such as getting out of his arms) and a second related to the fact that he might eat something he shouldn’t.
These fears can be so severe that the mother is afraid to be alone with the baby. For a mother suffering from postpartum anxiety, a simple visit to the doctor is accompanied by scary scenarios.
Postpartum anxiety vs postpartum depression
How do you differentiate between postpartum anxiety and postpartum depression? “They can be private as two sides of the same coin. Often, anxiety is associated with depression, with things we have lost, a loss of a sense of independence, and a past life. On the other hand, anxiety tends to focus on the future, on negative situations that you can’t control, on worries about what is going to happen,” explains Michael Silverman, a psychologist and professor at the Icahn School of Medicine Mount Sinai from New York.
The specialist also states that it is not uncommon for women suffering from postpartum anxiety to show signs of postnatal depression.
According to the latest statistics published in the Journal of Pediatrics, 10% of mothers experience postpartum anxiety, the disorder being even more common than postnatal depression (6%).
Postpartum anxiety — causes and symptoms
Like postnatal depression, experts are not entirely sure what causes postnatal anxiety.
“There is a relationship between sudden hormonal changes that occur immediately after birth and postnatal anxiety. To this is added a clear association between lack of sleep and anxiety. But we don’t know exactly what the trigger is,” said Dr. Silverman for TheBump.
On the other hand, women who have experienced panic attacks and anxiety before pregnancy have a higher risk of developing the condition, experts say.
The period immediately after birth should be an idyllic one, but the lack of sleep and the changes involved in the baby, breastfeeding, and hormonal changes – all of these can trigger postnatal anxiety.
Symptoms you should not overlook:
- women with postnatal anxiety tend to have difficulty looking at things in a relaxed way
- worries and fears about the baby’s future are constant
It is normal for a new mother to be worried, but if the worries become paralyzing, overwhelm you, and affect her whole life, then you are dealing with postnatal anxiety.
The most common symptoms of postpartum anxiety are:
- you are obsessively worried that your baby will get sick
- always think that you can hurt your baby – you are afraid of household items
- can’t concentrate and stay in one place
- agitated and feel the need to do things
- lack of sleep because of worries
- you can’t eat, you’re not hungry
- the most dramatic scenarios are built in your mind
- tired and without energy
- suffer from back, stomach, or chest pain
- feel dizzy and nauseous
- you always feel tense
- abdominal cramps, headaches, tremors, and panic attacks
How to overcome postpartum anxiety
In addition to a proper treatment regimen to treat anxiety, there are a few things you can do to control this condition.
Talk to your partner, family members, and friends — often just talking to people close to you can help. They will give you emotional support.
In such cases, it is advisable to contact a psychotherapist. Following an emotional evaluation, he will tell you which is the most effective method of approach — whether it is the case of a drug treatment or psychotherapy is enough.
Postpartum anxiety is not a shallow condition. It is important for the mothers or their partners to realize if the mental disturbance is real and, if that’s the case, they should seek professional assistance. Untreated, postpartum anxiety might evolve, causing more significant turbulence.