It is natural to be concerned for your little one after giving birth. This is perfectly normal. However, there are moments when it can mean something more.
You may have more than the new-parent jitters if your anxiety is out of control, keeps you up at night, or keeps you on edge most of the day.
Anxiety is a mental health problem characterised by worrisome thoughts, tense feelings, and bodily manifestations such as elevated blood pressure and palpitations.
After childbirth, most new mothers have postpartum “baby blues,” which include mood changes, crying episodes, anxiety, and sleep problems. The baby blues usually start two to three days after delivery and can linger for up to two weeks.
Excessive anxiety during the postpartum period, which is the time after childbirth, is known as postpartum anxiety. The anxiety of this nature can grow so intense that it impairs one’s ability to function.
When does postpartum anxiety start?
Postpartum anxiety symptoms usually appear between the birth of the baby and the first birthday of the child, but they might appear considerably earlier in some situations.
According to Ann Smith, CNM, President of Postpartum Support International, “twenty-five to 35 percent of postpartum anxiety problems begin during pregnancy.”
While most women experience anxiety shortly after giving birth, Smith points out that a very stressful life event—or even weaning from breastfeeding—can set off PPA months later.
How long does postpartum anxiety usually last?
While postpartum blues usually wear off within a couple of weeks after giving birth, postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety can last for a couple of years. For this reason, it is important to seek help right away if your anxiety is disrupting your day-to-day activities.
Symptoms of Postpartum Anxiety
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Keep in mind that most, if not all, new parents are concerned about their newborn. But the symptoms of a postpartum anxiety disorder constitute more extreme emotions or reactions such as:
- persistent worrying that won’t go away
- distress over what you fear might happen
- changes in eating and sleeping habits
- sleep disturbance
(this is a tough one to pinpoint because having a newborn means your sleep will be affected even if you’re not anxious — but think of it as waking up or having difficulties sleeping when your baby is sleeping nicely)
- anxiety that is out of control
- having irrational (not logical) thoughts
- overwhelming thoughts (thoughts that consume you for a long period of time)
- inability to concentrate
These uncontrollable, consuming thoughts usually revolve around a few primary worry areas, such as:
- concerns about the health of the baby and oneself
- apprehensions about a parent or partner getting sick or dying
- a feeling that something dreadful is about to happen
- unreasonable worries or obsessions
- condemning oneself excessively or feeling extremely sorry when something goes wrong
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Postpartum anxiety can also cause physical symptoms, such as:
- rapid heartbeat
- hot flashes
- nausea or vomiting
- shakiness or trembling
A person’s ability to bond with their infant may be hampered by postpartum anxiety. It may also have a negative impact on the mental and physical development of the infant.
If left untreated, postpartum anxiety can have catastrophic implications, including newborn maltreatment and, in the worst-case scenario, infant mortality.
Postpartum anxiety vs Postpartum Depression
According to the American Pregnancy Association, postpartum anxiety disorder is a cousin to postpartum depression (PPD), which affects roughly 10% of new mums. Excessive worrying, racing thoughts, and emotions of dread are all typical indications.
Unlike postpartum depression, which can lead to intense sadness or even disinterest in one’s newborn, postpartum anxiety symptoms are primarily manifested as worry. Sara Gottfried, M.D., author of The Hormone Cure, adds,
“You always feel concerned and on edge. I think of postpartum anxiety as a loss of equilibrium and peace, and postpartum depression as a loss of heart.”
Unfortunately, postpartum depression is the disorder that’s talked about most, so many mums are unsure what to think once they start experiencing intense worry.
“We call postpartum anxiety ‘the hidden disorder’ because so few mums recognise it and it goes undiagnosed,” explains Dr Abramowitz.
“It hasn’t been discussed or studied much, even though it’s likely more common than postpartum depression.”
It’s also worth noting that PPD and PPA frequently coexist; over half of women who experience postpartum depression also experience anxiety.
“If you’re anxious and it’s getting in the way of your life, you may begin to feel depressed about that and vice versa,” Dr. Abramowitz adds.
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Ways to cope with Postpartum Anxiety
Take comfort in knowing there are good reasons for experiencing this overwhelming distress and anxiety. First, realise that caring for a new baby is hard, and there is nothing you did to cause these feelings.
However, there are some things you can try that can help you cope with postpartum anxiety:
You may talk to your partner, friends, and family about your worries and need for support. Ask for their assistance so you can balance caregiving duties equally.
You can also consider recruiting family members or babysitters to help or join a support group of new parents, many of which can be found online.
Take good care of yourself
Try to maintain a balanced diet, which is possible through batch cooking, meal delivery services, and more. Know that taking care of yourself is also taking care of your baby.
Relaxation techniques, mindfulness, yoga, and meditation are examples of practices that can help you reduce stress.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
Short-term counselling with a mental health professional to learn how to modify anxiety-inducing thought habits.
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Inhaling calming or soothing essential oils, such as lavender or bitter orange, can help decrease or manage stress and anxiety. Essential oils should not be applied to the skin by breastfeeding mothers since they can enter the bloodstream and pass into breast milk.
Your doctor may recommend for you to take medications such as selective serotonin and noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors. SSRIs and SNRIs will increase levels of mood-stabilising brain chemicals.
You may use anxiety-relieving medications, such as benzodiazepines upon the approval of your physician. Because of the potential for negative effects, most antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs are only used in cases of moderate to severe postpartum anxiety. They can also transfer from the bloodstream into breast milk, posing a risk to a breastfed kid.
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As mentioned earlier, baby blues are normal, as they only last a few weeks on average. Postpartum anxiety is a common but poorly understood medical condition that causes persistent and excessive worry in the months and years following childbirth.
Tell your doctor right away if you’re experiencing this condition in the longer term, as severe anxiety and symptoms may interfere with your baby’s life.
People and their newborns are at a lower risk of bad outcomes if postpartum anxiety and depression are treated as soon as possible.
This article was written by Matt Doctor and republished with permission from theAsianparent Philippines.
Healthline, Mayo Clinic, TexasChildrens.org, Medical News Today, VeryWellHealth
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