Having a child is a magical event for many, but it also comes with its fair share of struggles and challenges. Many mothers experience postpartum anxiety, which is one of many potential postpartum mental health conditions or anxiety disorders.
If you or a loved one have experienced postpartum anxiety, know that you are not alone. But if you aren’t sure whether you have postpartum anxiety or another condition, read on; we’ll break down some of the common signs of postpartum anxiety in detail.
What Is Postpartum Anxiety?
Postpartum anxiety is a mental health condition that occurs after giving birth to one or more children. It is typically characterized by severe anxiety after becoming a parent or having a baby.
Perinatal anxiety can present both emotional and physical symptoms like panic attacks, racing thoughts, or chest pain. It can also make actions like breastfeeding difficult during the postpartum period. It can be treated with cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT, as well as antidepressants and other treatments as recommended by a psychiatry professional.
Although new moms are more likely to develop baby blues, father figures can also experience anxiety as a result of the increased stress of parenthood. Risk factors can include obsessions with a baby’s health or well-being, previous diagnosis of a panic disorder, a history of anxiety, sleep deprivation, and more.
Postpartum anxiety can take over one’s thoughts and feelings, making it difficult to concentrate, care for their new child, or complete other daily tasks. It can also be difficult to distinguish or recognize; after all, some anxiety or stress is expected after having a child!
But postpartum anxiety disorders can lead to other long-term, negative consequences if left unchecked. Therefore, it’s important to recognize the signs of postpartum anxiety as quickly as possible.
How Long Does Postpartum Anxiety Last?
It depends on the individual. Postpartum anxiety does not usually last forever. It may last for several weeks or continue a few months into your first year of parenthood. In any case, postpartum anxiety usually requires some attention from your healthcare provider or a mental healthcare professional.
What Are Common Symptoms of Postpartum Anxiety?
Postpartum anxiety can manifest differently in everyone, so it may not feel the same from person to person. However, postpartum anxiety usually appears with the following common signs and symptoms:
- Excessive worrying or fear about their new baby’s well-being
- Inability to relax.
- Decreased appetite, often related to the heightened stress of postpartum anxiety
- Intrusive thoughts
- Shortness of breath or chest pains
- Heart palpitations
- Difficulty sitting still or other physical manifestations, such as twitchiness
- Dizziness or nausea, which can be related to the above-mentioned stress
- The development of OCD or obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Nightmares or intense, fearful images of disasters occurring
- Paranoia or lack of trust
Remember, postpartum anxiety is not merely some nervousness or anxious thoughts after giving birth or becoming a parent. Postpartum anxiety has symptoms that are overwhelming and often severe. The symptoms also typically persist for longer than a day or two after becoming a parent.
It’s normal to feel nervous when reaching a milestone is important as parenthood. It’s not normal if you can’t stop thinking about bad things that may happen to your child, especially if you are no longer able to fulfill your duties or obligations as a new parent.
What Causes Postpartum Anxiety?
Postpartum anxiety can have many potential sources or causes.
In women who give birth, for instance, postpartum anxiety can be caused due to the unique combination of stressful hormones and increased responsibility after having a child. Women typically experience a flood of hormones both leading up to and after giving birth; this hormone mix, if it is imbalanced in some way, may lead to the development of postpartum anxiety or postpartum depression and related disorders.
However, postpartum anxiety can also be caused by general stress or anxious thoughts. For instance, someone who already tends to feel anxious over upcoming events may feel even more anxiety if and when they have a child.
Even well-established adults who are otherwise emotionally stable might develop postpartum anxiety due to the new responsibilities of having a child. Anxiety can also be related to a specific incident from one’s past; if, for instance, a mother had a miscarriage previously, she may develop postpartum anxiety even upon delivering a healthy baby because of this prior incident.
Regardless of the cause of postpartum anxiety, understanding and recognizing it is key so you can begin to treat the condition with the help of licensed professionals and the support of your family and friends.
Is Postpartum Anxiety Common?
Postpartum anxiety is typically thought to affect between 11% and 21% of individuals, including women who give birth and other parental figures, such as fathers or other partners. This prevalence does not include those with generalized anxiety disorder.
Therefore, if you or a loved one have experienced postpartum anxiety or you believe you are developing this condition, remember that you aren’t alone.
In fact, there’s a wealth of information related to postpartum anxiety that can help you better understand it and treat its symptoms. Many people experience prenatal and perinatal mood disorders, so you can find a support group that specifically fits your needs and experiences.
How Does Postpartum Anxiety Differ From Postpartum Depression?
Postpartum anxiety and postpartum depression are similar but have a few distinct differences.
Postpartum anxiety is characterized by the symptoms above, namely by a feeling of anxiety or worry surrounding the care of your new baby or your parental actions. Postpartum depression may be much more serious, as it is characterized by excessive sadness, lack of energy, and lack of interest in your newborn.
Many women and fathers suffer from postpartum depression. They may find that they have difficulty finding joy in their new parenting experience or may feel that they are overwhelmed by other negative feelings.
If you feel panicked, overwhelmed with fear, or paralyzed by indecision, you likely have postpartum anxiety rather than postpartum depression. Other signs of postpartum depression include lack of sleep, feeling afraid, and feelings of sadness and fatigue. Some of these symptoms can be shared with postpartum anxiety, so get a diagnosis from a licensed mental healthcare professional at the earliest opportunity.
What Should You Do if You Have Postpartum Anxiety?
If you have postpartum anxiety, remember that there are many ways to feel better.
Some individuals find that their postpartum anxiety subsides once they spend some time back at home surrounded by people they love. Many new parents feel a lot of anxiety in the first days after having a child. Once they get back into their daily routines and receive support from family members, they feel better.
However, note that postpartum anxiety does not usually subside by itself. It’s a serious condition and should receive medical or mental health professional attention at the earliest opportunity.
If your postpartum anxiety does not subside on its own, mental health care professionals may be able to help. Therapists can speak to you to help you work through your anxious thoughts and control your feelings more capably, plus recommend psychotherapy exercises to help you recover from pregnancy.
Alternatively, you may be prescribed medication to help you balance your hormones if your postpartum anxiety is caused by a biochemical imbalance. You can only identify such an imbalance through medical testing, however.
Above all else, remember that postpartum anxiety does not last forever. Even if you feel like you will be afraid or nervous forever, remind yourself that things will eventually get better, and you’ll be able to enjoy your child and your parenting experience sooner rather than later.
If you or a loved one have experienced any of the above signs or symptoms, remember that you aren’t alone. Postpartum anxiety affects millions of women every year, and there are ways to treat this condition so you can get back on your feet physically and metaphorically, plus feel back to your old self in no time.
Understanding how to recognize and deal with anxiety and related symptoms is just one part of the pursuit of holistic mental wellness. Check out 1AND1’s other guides and resources for more tips and advice on how to practice positive thinking and feel better each and every day.