Having a baby brings unbelievable joy and happiness. Perhaps as a child, you played with your baby dolls and dreamed of this magical milestone in your life. When you’re pregnant, most people give you the famous “Sleep now before you aren’t able to!” But they often neglect to talk about how, especially for first-time mothers, this newfound responsibility and all-consuming protection of your baby can feel incredibly overwhelming.
After giving birth, new mothers experience a greater sensitivity to stress, fear, and panic in their new role. Abrupt hormone changes and sleep deprivation are obvious causes of these often intense feelings. Perhaps all new moms feel some sense of postpartum anxiety, but when it disrupts your daily life and consumes almost every thought, you may be dealing with clinical PPA.
The most important thing to understand is that postpartum anxiety isn’t your fault. It doesn’t make you an awful person or a bad mother. If you think you have PPA, you must talk to a medical professional and learn about possible treatment options. Having an open and honest conversation is often the first step in your healing process and understanding your condition.
Postpartum Anxiety or Another Perinatal condition?
Before diving into the postpartum anxiety symptoms, it would be helpful to compare and contrast baby blues, postpartum depression (PPD), and postpartum anxiety (PPA).
- Baby Blues are just what they sound like – sadness within the first few days after having your baby. Up to 80% of new parents experience the baby blues. These feelings typically last up to two weeks.
Hormonal changes are the biggest culprit for baby blues. Severe decreases in estrogen and progesterone can cause intense mood swings in new mothers. When these feelings persist beyond two weeks, it is time to get in touch with your healthcare provider. You may need to be checked for postpartum depression.
- Postpartum depression (PPD) is a medical condition with symptoms similar to baby blues, although usually much more severe and lasting longer. The feelings of sadness are more powerful and debilitating, often including anxiety (worrisome or troublesome thoughts) and tiredness that lasts for an extended period.
The main difference between baby blues and postpartum depression is that PPD can make it hard for you to care for your baby and yourself. This condition can happen anytime after giving birth but most likely occurs within the first year. It is one of the most common complications post-childbirth and affects about 15 percent of new mothers.
- Postpartum anxiety (PPA) manifests in excessive worrying directly after having or adopting your new baby. You may often feel panicked, nervous, and unable to relax. Irrational thoughts or fears may consume you. You may also feel a sense of doom or danger while not being able to understand or explain it fully. Panic and overwhelm are also extremely common with postpartum anxiety.
Common Postpartum Anxiety Symptoms
Postpartum anxiety symptoms and postpartum depression symptoms can overlap. Postpartum anxiety is mainly associated with excessive worrying, not sadness, like PPD. It is relatively common for women suffering from postpartum depression to experience anxiety symptoms. Of course, if you have postpartum anxiety, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re depressed. Both conditions are associated with disrupted sleep, heart palpitations, and troublesome thoughts.
You may be experiencing postpartum anxiety if you have these physical symptoms:
- Increased heart rate
- Stomach nausea
- Short of breath or general trouble breathing
- Appetite loss
- Trouble sleeping
- Muscle tension
- Inability to stay still
Postpartum anxiety emotional symptoms may feel like:
- Racing thoughts
- Obsessing over irrational fears
- Inability to calm yourself
- Forgetfulness or trouble focusing on a task
- Feeling uneasy and in a sense of danger
- Distressing images of harm coming to your baby
Postpartum anxiety is often associated with these behavioral symptoms:
- You are overly controlling.
- You are overly cautious even when a situation does not pose a danger.
- You are double or triple checking over and over.
- You avoid people, places, and activities due to your excessive worry.
Postpartum anxiety can rob you of enjoying precious time with your baby. You may constantly be checking on them and not giving yourself ample time to rest and recover. Your worry can lead to panic attacks and other adverse bodily health reactions.
Why am I Experiencing Postpartum Anxiety?
There could be several reasons why you are experiencing postpartum anxiety. Several factors come into play and put you at a higher PPA risk.
- Physical Health: If you had complications or an extended hospital stay after having your baby, you might experience postpartum anxiety symptoms.
- Hormones: The extreme decrease in hormones post-delivery can cause intense mood swings in the first month postpartum. You may overreact in certain situations and inherently feel more stress.
- Sleep Deprivation: Caring for a newborn is an around-the-clock job. You are sleep deprived and have little to no time for yourself.
- Overwhelm: General overwhelm is common, especially with all of this new responsibility. You are suddenly responsible for the health and well-being of a new little person.
- Stress: New stressors might emerge, such as difficulty breastfeeding or lack of weight gain in your newborn. Other milestones, like returning to work after a short maternity leave, can trigger postpartum anxiety.
- Genetics: Risk factors such as a family history of depression and anxiety can make you more susceptible to PPA. Other occurrences like past pregnancy loss or not having a supportive partner may also lead to postpartum anxiety.
Get Help for Postpartum Anxiety with the Best IOP in San Diego
If you are experiencing postpartum anxiety, you should know it is a highly prevalent issue and occurs more than you may think. You may even be so consumed with your new parenting role that you’re unaware your symptoms are anxiety related. There are several treatment options for postpartum anxiety. Our IOP in San Diego at BOLD Health can be a safe haven to express your feelings of panic and overwhelm.
Your IOP treatment plan may include:
- Individual psychotherapy and/or group therapy: Our skillfully trained professionals will take the time to get to the root cause of your anxiety. We don’t simply try to reduce your symptoms.
At BOLD, we dive into understanding your individual, genetic, and historical factors that might be contributing to your anxiety symptoms. Group therapy can give you the solidarity of fellow mothers experiencing the same overwhelm. Psychoeducation during group therapy can offer a window into understanding what, how, and why this anxiety is occurring and ways to manage it.
- Medication management: Our healthcare providers can offer you medication if your anxiety interferes too heavily with your daily life. Before beginning medication, we can weigh the risks and benefits together. Providing a breastfeeding-friendly treatment is always an option for new mothers. We can help you determine if you need a combination of medications and any future adjustments.
Our IOP in San Diego is dedicated to managing your anxiety symptoms and helping you get back to spending quality time with your baby. While engaging in therapy, we’ll assist you in finding more holistic ways to cope with your overwhelming symptoms of PPA. We’ll also take proactive measures such as regulating sleep, healthy food choices, deep breathing, meditation, and exercising since these are all things you can do to help you find relief.
The first year of your baby’s life is fleeting. We want you fully present and engaged with your little one, so you need professional help for postpartum anxiety. Contact us today to start feeling like yourself again. And remember, when you take care of yourself, you are a happier and more present mommy for your baby.