When your baby cries in public, do you immediately focus on the eyes around you? Do you think people judge you for being a “bad” mother? Do you feel more fear for your child than joy?
You may be experiencing postpartum anxiety, a close cousin of postpartum depression. Once family and friends start gushing over the new baby and how exciting of a time this is, it can quickly induce a sense of guilt for not being upbeat and grateful every moment of every day.
Know that you have nothing to feel guilty for, and most importantly, you are not alone.
How Common is Postpartum Anxiety?
According to the American Pregnancy Association, 10% of new mothers are affected by postpartum anxiety, and many more go undiagnosed. If left untreated, postpartum anxiety can turn into a lifelong battle with anxiety.
However, feeling some anxiety is understandable. An unfamiliar part of your identity is forming—you are a protector now. Of course, some anxiety is going to come with this new, very real responsibility, but when it gets in the way of your happiness and productivity, it could be time to dig deeper.
What Are The Potential Triggers?
25-35% of postpartum anxiety cases begin during pregnancy, but most occur anytime between birth and the child’s first birthday. For some, weaning off of breastfeeding can cause out-of-control anxiety. For others, the feelings of edginess after giving birth never seems to cease, and for good reason.
Pregnancy kick-starts a huge hormonal uptick in us. Within 24 hours of giving birth, those hormone levels drop back down to close to zero. For anyone, this would require some change to regain a sense of normalcy.
What Symptoms Should I Look For?
In general, anxiety disorders are characterized by new feelings of excessive worry, spiraling thoughts, and overall dread. You may feel hyper-vigilant, always on edge, and ready for disaster to strike at any moment. If you lost a sense of normalcy that used to be characterized by routine, calmness, and balance, counseling can help you get back on your feet.
Anxiety manifests itself in both mental and physical ways. Physically, it can show as hot flashes, unexplained dizziness, difficulty sleeping (whether having trouble falling or staying asleep), rapid heartbeat, or unexplained nausea. If you struggle with some or all of these symptoms, it may be time to seek professional help.
How Can I Get Help?
Once the baby arrives, everything changes—chaotic sleeping schedules, extra amounts of responsibility, new relationship expectations… The list of anxiety-inducing adjustments goes on.
So what can you do? Well, you can count on a combination of support from loved ones as well as therapy. Postpartum lifestyles can lead to feelings of loneliness. Hiding away from friends and family with nothing to listen to but your own intrusive thoughts will only lead to more anxiety.
Talk to someone to lighten the load. Understand that you are allowed to vent about your new lifestyle. After all, it is stressful!
Learn to ask for a break from baby duties—they say it takes a village to raise a child, and it is never too late to start building yours.
Work to change irrational thinking patterns. As a new mother, you are going to feel deep concern for your baby. However, anxiety can fill our minds with fears that are irrational and less-than-helpful to consider. Working with a therapist can help you break down thought patterns that lead to unproductive spirals—does green poop mean your baby is deathly ill, or is that just what baby poop looks like sometimes?
Try to fit relaxation techniques into your day, like meditation or mindfulness training. Exercise can help ease anxiety, too, and both will contribute toward a better night’s sleep.
Overall, remember that taking care of yourself is taking care of your baby. It is not selfish or weak to seek help—it is responsible and mature of you to do so. Once you are ready to take the next step at beating postpartum anxiety, reach out to one of our counselors.