Why New Moms Don’t Share Their Postpartum Intrusive Thoughts
You feel anxious about your parenting abilities. You cry daily and feel guilty for no reason. Your eating habits change, and you don’t want to participate in anything you typically enjoy. Isolating yourself and distancing yourself from your baby, you try to deal with the bombardment of intrusive thoughts about your baby – scary thoughts that leave you feeling ashamed.
If it sounds familiar to you, please know you’re not alone. Thousands of perinatal and postnatal moms feel the same way. Postpartum intrusive thoughts are more common than you may realize. One in seven women has the same thoughts and feelings.
Unfortunately, new moms are often led to believe they should be on cloud nine in new-mom bliss after giving birth. So when you struggle with negative postpartum thoughts, anxiety, and overwhelming sadness, you may feel ashamed and like you’ve already failed as a mom.
But that isn’t true. Postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, and postpartum OCD are serious mental illnesses. You’re not choosing to feel this way. But you can feel better with professional help.
Why You’re Having Scary Postpartum Thoughts
Embarking on the journey of motherhood, whether a new journey or continuing one, is a significant life change. There’s sure to be apprehension, concern, worry, anxiety, excitement, and plenty of other emotions involved. That’s why it’s common for both moms and dads to have some anxious thoughts about taking care of such a small, innocent, defenseless bundle of joy.
But when the occasional anxious thought turns into several scary thoughts, which turn into more and more postpartum intrusive thoughts, you’re stepping into postpartum mental illness territory.
You may have vivid scenarios play in your mind of dropping your baby down the stairs or having trouble sleeping because you assume your slumbering baby has stopped breathing. Uncontrollable postpartum intrusive thoughts that leave you anxious may make bonding with your baby challenging. And that only adds insult to injury, making you feel even worse.
So why are these postpartum thoughts plaguing you?
Unfortunately, scientists and health professionals don’t have a solid answer to that question. However, they have concluded that women with a family history of anxiety may be more susceptible to experiencing negative postpartum thoughts.
According to one expert on intrusive thoughts, Dr. Jonathan Abramowitz, associate chair of the psychology department at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, everyone has thoughts that go against who they are as a person. His research has led him to conclude that our brains are wired to wonder whether certain things could happen and if we’re capable of doing them.
Your brain is hardwired to protect and keep the people and things near and dear to your heart safe. Obviously, that includes your baby. So when your brain starts to wander and consider potentially dangerous situations, it’s common they may include thoughts of your baby.
Environmental, psychological, and hormonal stressors also play a role in postpartum mental illness. While there’s no exact known “cause” of postpartum illness, it comes down to genetics, environmental factors, and how you’re wired.
In the end, having postpartum intrusive thoughts doesn’t make you a bad mother. And having them doesn’t mean you’ll act on them. In reality, mothers rarely do. (Barring no postpartum psychosis.)
The important thing is to stay in tune with how you’re feeling. And if you think you need professional help, there’s no shame in seeking it. In fact, getting the help you need will help you bond with your baby and enjoy your new life together sooner.
Four Reasons You May Avoid Talking About Your Postpartum Intrusive Thoughts
Even if you already know that lots of women experience postpartum illness and scary postpartum thoughts, you may not want to admit you do too. So you put on a happy face and pretend everything is great when you see friends and family, but inside, you’re struggling.
Some of the reasons you may not talk about how you’re really feeling include:
- You feel ashamed. As mentioned earlier, Hollywood, commercials, and even your loved ones can paint an unrealistic picture of motherhood. While becoming a mom is one of the most incredible, magical, and rewarding things in the world, it’s not always soft coos, baby cuddles, and joyful hours on end with your baby.
These unrealistic expectations can cause you to question your mothering skills. You know you’re experiencing postpartum intrusive thoughts, but you think things like,
“A good mother wouldn’t be thinking like this,” or “What is wrong with me? Why am I thinking this way?”
You end up judging yourself and feeling embarrassed, mortified, and guilty. You may even be afraid to voice your thoughts to others for fear they’ll actually happen. And you likely feel like you’re broken and that there’s something wrong with you as a mom.
But you don’t have to feel this way. You’re not broken. You are experiencing a mental illness shared by millions of other women. And you deserve help to feel better.
- You’re afraid. As a new mom, you don’t want to be labeled as “mentally ill.” The negative stigma surrounding the term is enough to make you keep your feelings to yourself.
But having a postpartum mental illness doesn’t make you any less of a mother. Getting a postpartum depression, anxiety, or OCD diagnosis just means you can get the appropriate help to overcome it. And you can overcome these illnesses. They are 100% treatable.
You may also fear that you’ll be labeled as an “unfit mother” and have your baby taken away from you. Rest assured, negative postpartum thoughts do not make you an unfit mother. Admitting to them and getting the help you need means just the opposite.
- You’re unsure. It’s no secret that becoming a new mom comes with a fair share of exhaustion, weight loss or gain, low libido, and moodiness. So it may be challenging to spot postpartum mental illness since many of its symptoms are the same.
You may wonder if what you’re feeling is “normal” or if you should be concerned. The bottom line is if you feel concerned, you should talk to your doctor. And if they tell you you’re fine, but you’re still worried, insist on a closer examination of potential symptoms. You know yourself best. And you deserve to get help if you’re not feeling like yourself.
- You don’t feel like trying. There’s no way to sugarcoat it: depression stinks. It’s a self-absorbed mental illness that could deprive you of any desire to seek help. If you’re spiraling in a whirlwind of postpartum intrusive thoughts and negative thinking, you may just want to hide away from everyone and everything and try your best to will it away.
That’s why it’s crucial to surround yourself with a strong support system that will look out for you. Getting professional help and support from loved ones makes recovery much smoother.
Postpartum Depression Treatment in San Diego is a Click Away
We understand that having intrusive thoughts about your baby can be worrisome, disheartening, and even debilitating. But you don’t have to deal with them on your own. Our team of clinicians at BOLD Health is skilled and experienced in the areas of PPD, PPA, and pOCD.
Whether you’re looking for in-person postpartum depression treatment in San Diego, or virtual treatment throughout the state of California, we’re here to help. Our holistic approach to treating postpartum illnesses means we treat you and not just your symptoms. Together, we’ll get to the root of why you feel the way you do, so at the end of your postpartum depression treatment in San Diego is complete, you’ll not only feel better, but you’ll also gain a deeper understanding of who you are.
We offer several options for treatment including:
Your comprehensive intake evaluation will help our physician-led team determine the optimal treatment plan tailored specifically to you. It could range from virtual therapy sessions to our more rigorous San Diego IOP. Or, your treatment plan could include a combination of several methods.
You don’t have to suffer in silence. Contact our warm and welcoming staff today and ask about our postpartum depression treatment options, San Diego IOP, and virtual therapy options.