What is postpartum anxiety?
Postpartum anxiety occurs in about 6-10% of women. Some women may notice the symptoms of anxiety during pregnancy or shortly after birth, while others may not recognize symptoms until up to 1 year (or more). Referred to as "the hidden disorder;" screenings that test for depression can sometimes miss anxiety.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms can include racing thoughts, scary thoughts, incessant worry, agitation, and physical symptoms like dizziness, hot flashes, and nausea. In some cases panic attacks may occur. One may have a constant feeling that something bad is going to happen or experience disturbances in sleep and appetite. It can be difficult to recognize, because all new parents experience worry! While many new parents are able to quiet the mental noise of worry, and distinguish between actual vs. perceived threats; the worries of someone with PPA will become very bothersome and can interfere with daily life.
Why does it happen?
There are many risks factors that may contribute to a postpartum anxiety disorder. Some include personal or family history of anxiety/depression, major life stressors (moving, new job, financial stress, marital stress), and complications in pregnancy, delivery, feeding, or health of the infant, including NICU stay.
What is the treatment?
PPA is a very treatable! Talk therapy, especially cognitive behavioral therapy, has shown to be effective in treating PPA. Medication may be utilized. Other things that can help are light exercise, eating healthy, and getting fresh air every day. If you are struggling with postpartum anxiety, the advice to "sleep when the baby sleeps" can be very difficult to follow! Be gentle with yourself and try to get a least 5 consecutive hours of sleep every night, even if it means allowing others to care for your baby.
4 Ways to Cope with Postpartum Anxiety
Please know: You are not alone! You will not feel this way forever! The sooner you start treatment, the sooner you will feel better.