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Postpartum Anxiety Is Real! Here’s How You Can Cope With It

Postpartum anxiety is characterized by excessive worrying about your child. It’s a debilitating problem and can severely affect your well-being.

postpartum anxiety

New mothers are often warned about the dangers of postpartum depression (PPD). However, not a lot of people under what is postpartum anxiety (PPA) – a condition that’s much more prevalent than postpartum depression

Postpartum anxiety is one of the biggest issues related to maternal mental health in America. It’s extremely difficult to deal with, normalized as baby jitters, and a socially sanctioned condition that is deemed natural. Most mothers are told that their anxiety is a reflection of good parenting. Stress and fear are characterized as signs of motherly love.

There’s a complete lack of medical literature about postpartum anxiety. The Diagnostical and Statistical Manual (DSM-V) does not even recognize postpartum anxiety as a full-fledged mental health condition. In most forms of medical discourse, PPA is entirely absent at worst or listed as one of the symptoms of PPD at best. 

All this occurs even though there’s plenty of proof to establish how widespread postpartum anxiety is. 

Experiencing postpartum anxiety symptoms and dealing with the condition can be incredibly difficult for new mothers and their families. This added lack of adequate support, resources, and information can further exacerbate the issue

In this blog post, we will dive deeper into what postpartum anxiety is, its symptoms, treatment options, and ways to cope with it. 

But before we get started, here’s something important. 

Mental and neurological health are diverse and complex. They exist on a spectrum, and every individual has their own experiences. Therefore, don’t start diagnosing yourself with the knowledge you get by reading a few articles on the Internet (though we are incredibly grateful to you for stopping by to enhance your understanding of an important topic). If you find this article helpful or resonate with the symptoms explained in it, consider this as the beginning of your journey of getting the right help. 

That’s it. Let’s dive in!

What Is Postpartum Anxiety?

postnatal anxiety

Having signs of postpartum anxiety means constantly being stressed and anxious to the point where it starts significantly affecting your overall life. 

Postpartum anxiety can co-occur with PPD. However, it can be a completely separate condition altogether. If you have never heard about PPA, you are not alone! The condition has received much overdue attention pretty recently and isn’t highly researched as of now. 

A 2013 paper by the American Academy of Pediatrics explained that among 1100+ new mothers, at least 17% showed postpartum anxiety signs and symptoms. On the contrary, 6% of the women showed signs of PPD, and 3.7% of women showed signs of both conditions. However, the researchers noted that they did not have adequate data on the mental health of these women prior to giving birth, and the study was more focused on women who chose to breastfeed. Therefore, the results of this paper could not be generalized on a larger scale. 

Another study by the Journal of Affective Disorders also reaffirmed that the prevalence of postpartum anxiety was much higher than PPD.

While there is evidence regarding the high prevalence of PPA, there are no exact data on how many women are affected by the condition. However, anxiety is a highly prevalent condition in itself. As per estimates by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, a staggering 40 million people in the country deal with anxiety, and less than a third actively seek treatment for it. 

If you have been stressed or anxious before your pregnancy, you’re much more likely to have anxiety post-pregnancy. 

Postpartum Anxiety – Signs And Symptoms

anxiety after giving birth

While having anxiety after giving birth can be pretty common, the signs of postpartum anxiety go beyond your regular worries as a new mother. Women having postpartum or postnatal anxiety have worries that move away from the regular parent worries into a disturbing and obsessive zone

For instance, some women can have obsessive worries about their child’s well-being or safety. This postnatal anxiety gets so intrusive that it starts affecting the well-being of the mother. The major postpartum anxiety symptoms include the following:

Severe Postpartum Anxiety And Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Several women report having symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) along with postpartum anxiety symptoms. 

OCD is an unclassified form of anxiety disorder characterized by compulsive thoughts and obsessions. For new mothers, the symptoms of OCD can take the form of intrusive and unwanted fears about the well-being of the baby. These thoughts can be highly disturbing as most are centered around the physical safety of the baby. 

Compulsions can take up multiple forms for the mother, including the following: 

  • constant cleaning,
  • checking on the baby every now and then,
  • reorganizing the things around the home, and
  • other forms of repetitive behaviors. 

What Are The Causes Of Postpartum Anxiety?

Since there is little to no research about the causes of postpartum anxiety, scientists and medical professionals haven’t identified concrete triggers for the condition. One of the major factors is the hormonal changes that women go through during and after pregnancy. These hormonal changes can contribute to anxiety post-pregnancy. 

Additionally, the added responsibility and stress of taking care of the baby can also contribute to the development of postpartum anxiety. 

While there are no exact causes of PPA, there are several risk factors associated with the condition. These include the following:

  • Financial and other household crisis
  • Personal or genetic history of anxiety
  • Personal or genetic history of maternal mental health conditions.
  • Teen pregnancy
  • Lack of support from family and friends  
  • Miscarriage or pregnancy loss
  • History of hormonal conditions like thyroid, etc.
  • Pre-term delivery

Coping With Postpartum Anxiety

postnatal anxiety

Now that you have a basic understanding of what PPA is and its symptoms, let’s get to the main part. How do you actually deal with PPA?

For starters, if you believe you are showing postpartum anxiety symptoms, it’s necessary to contact your healthcare provider or a mental healthcare specialist. While there are no postpartum anxiety screening tools, a maternal mental health specialist can analyze your condition and provide you with the required help and support. 

Postpartum Anxiety Treatment

The most useful treatment for PPA includes a combination of therapy, medications, and other forms of holistic support. 

Medications for postpartum anxiety include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor medications (SSRIs). However, it’s essential to consult a specialist before starting the medication, especially if you’re breastfeeding, to understand the risk factors associated with it.

Having a postpartum anxiety therapist can help you identify the root cause behind your symptoms and devise healthy coping mechanisms. Additionally, lifestyle changes, parental classes, and dietary changes are beneficial for treating severe postpartum anxiety. 

Dealing With Postpartum Anxiety

Apart from professional therapy, there are other ways to support yourself or your loved ones who are dealing with postpartum anxiety. These include:

  • Support groups: Finding a healthy and active support group with individuals dealing with similar conditions can be empowering for those dealing with PPA. 
  • Couples therapy: PPA can be incredibly isolating for women. Therefore, going to couples therapy together can be one of the best ways to cope with postpartum anxiety.

Apart from these, several organizations provide help and support to mothers dealing with PPA. These include:

1. Postpartum Support International (PSI): You can reach out to this helpline by calling or texting 800-944-4773. PSI can help connect you with your local healthcare provider or therapist. You can also use their directory to find a good postpartum anxiety therapist for yourself. PSI also offers weekly support groups that can be highly beneficial for those struggling with PPA.

2. Postpartum Progress: This is a non-profit organization that primarily focuses on maternal mental health. They have a well-curated list of postpartum anxiety therapists, including Black mental health professionals in the country. 

Conclusion:

Postpartum anxiety is one of the most debilitating maternal mental health conditions and is found to be more prevalent than postpartum depression. 

Dealing with PPA is tough. Therefore, if you or someone you love shows signs of postpartum anxiety, it’s essential to reach out to a mental health professional. While dealing with postpartum anxiety is complicated, there’s significant help available for you. Apart from therapy, you might also benefit from joining a support group or going to couples therapy. 

If reading this blog post has made you feel like you might have PPA, it’s essential to reach out for help. Access to help is now easier than ever with the advent of online therapy platforms. To learn about the most affordable and helpful online therapy platforms for maternal mental health, click here.

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