Giving birth is expected to be a joyous experience. Quite often, it is. However, things can get complicated in unexpected ways. A big part of that can be anxiety. That sweet new infant of yours is the definition of vulnerable. Caring for your baby always involves a fair amount of worry. Your worry can transform into anxiety and from there, you could use some help.
Being a parent is hard but it should not be all-consuming. It shouldn’t block out any other thoughts. With all that in mind, let’s explore postpartum anxiety — the signs, causes, and treatment. Let’s discern how to know when you should seek support.
What is Postpartum Anxiety?
If your worries and anxiety become pervasive during the first 12 months after giving birth, it could be postpartum anxiety. As many as 1 in 5 women experience this condition and it presents itself as such:
- Intrusive thoughts of worst-case scenarios about your baby
- A feeling that you cannot control the worry
- Obsessively checking on your child
- Not allowing yourself to be separated from your baby
- Your worries become increasingly more irrational
- Existing in a constant but vague state of high alert
- Trying to control situations to make them safe
As with most forms of anxiety, it’s believed a variety of factors are at play with postpartum anxiety. These may include but are not limited to:
- Hormonal changes after giving birth (including a large drop in estrogen and progesterone)
- Lack of sleep related to caring for your baby
- Family history
- A personal history of anxiety disorders
- Feeling overwhelmed by the huge responsibility of caring for such a fragile being
Many of the emotional symptoms are listed above. To that, you can add:
- Racing thoughts
- Loss of concentration
- Unable to calm oneself
Running parallel to such psychological signs, someone with postpartum anxiety may experience physical problems, e.g.
- Unexplained muscle aches and tensions
- Rapid heart rate
- Sleep disturbances
- Shortness of breath
- Digestive issues like nausea, loss of appetite, etc.
Postpartum Anxiety or Postpartum Depression?
More people are familiar with postpartum depression. This is partly because it’s more common than postpartum anxiety. However, there are enough similarities between the two that they warrant mention. A few details to consider:
- In both disorders, the new mother has trouble enjoying her new role. In one case, it’s due to sadness. With anxiety, it has to do with excessive worrying.
- It is more common for someone with postpartum depression to display symptoms of postpartum anxiety than the reverse.
- The biggest symptom overlaps involve sleep issues, fearfulness, heart palpitations, and irritability.
Hence, it is always best to consult a therapist to get a clearer perception of what’s going on and how to move forward.
How Long Can Postpartum Anxiety Last?
This is a bit of a trick question. So many factors impact how we answer this question. Here are just a few of those factors:
- Postpartum anxiety can begin before you give birth
- It can also not kick in until as many as six weeks after birth
- Both of the love time frames can influence how long it lasts
- How quickly you identify the issue will impact the duration
- Duration is also heavily impacted by the steps you take and how soon you seek help
- Individual factors like family support, your personality, and more will play a role
So, the short answer is: It’s hard to know. The first step therefore is: Ask for help.
If you feel any concern that postpartum anxiety is an issue, please reach out today. Together, we can identify the problem and create a plan to address it. Let’s connect so you can learn how postpartum counseling can help you.