We hear about the risks of postpartum depression (PPD) and psychosis almost as soon as we become pregnant. They tell us what symptoms to look for when we bring our little ones home, but not about PPD’s hidden cousin – postpartum anxiety.
While worrying about your baby is part of your job as a new parent, there’s a fine line between normal worry and full-blown anxiety. The latter makes it challenging to take care of your infant.
Here are some tips and tricks to help you deal with postpartum anxiety.
1. Understand the Diagnosis
While more medical professionals are beginning to recognize the signs of postpartum anxiety, it still doesn’t have an official diagnosis code — at least, not where the DSM-V is concerned. Experts estimate that up to 15% of new moms deal with postpartum depression after giving birth.
However, further studies suggest postpartum anxiety may be more common than PPD. One survey discovered that 6% of respondents dealt with postpartum depression, and 17% experienced anxiety after giving birth.
Though there isn’t an official diagnosis code for postpartum anxiety, it’s still a problem you might experience after giving birth. Don’t let anyone tell you it doesn’t exist or that it’s in your head. If your doctor dismisses your concerns, find a new one.
2. Recognize the Signs
Next, you need to recognize the signs of postpartum anxiety and separate them from the everyday worry of being a new parent. Postpartum depression might make you feel tired all the time. It may be challenging to bond with your baby.
Postpartum anxiety, on the other hand, might manifest as physical symptoms — rapid heartbeat, nausea, dizziness or insomnia. You might also find yourself worrying so much about little things that it interferes with daily life. Postpartum anxiety can start during pregnancy — sitting up at night worrying, whether you’re fit to be a mother.
The symptoms of postpartum anxiety are similar to other anxiety disorders — insomnia, feeling restless or irritated and worrying uncontrollably to the point where you can’t function.
Most women start experiencing the symptoms of postpartum anxiety during pregnancy or between the birth and the first birthday. Stressful events can also trigger symptoms later in life. Women are taught to recognize the signs of postpartum depression, but no one talks about postpartum anxiety. Learn how to recognize the signs of an increasingly prevalent mental illness.
3. Seek Professional Help
Postpartum anxiety isn’t something you can typically cope with on your own. Baby blues, and sometimes even postpartum depression, will resolve itself with time. However, professional intervention is a must when you have postpartum anxiety.
Talk to your doctor or your child’s pediatrician. Let them know about your concerns. They can give you a referral to a mental health specialist who can help you manage the symptoms of postpartum anxiety.
If finding a local therapist isn’t an option, consider telehealth — remote doctor’s appointments that allow you to get the help you need without leaving home. Your health insurance might cover some or all of the costs of these appointments. If they don’t, remote options are often more affordable than visiting a traditional therapist and paying out of pocket.
4. Find Local Support
Mental illnesses, such as postpartum depression and anxiety, are incredibly isolating. You feel like you should keep everything to yourself and not be a burden to others. However, you’re not the only one who’s been there. Reach out to your local mom groups, set up playdates and make it a point to get out of the house.
Chances are high that other moms in your local group have experienced PPD or PPA and know precisely how you feel. Ideally, you should seek out professional help, as well. Still, a group of close friends — whether they have kids of their own or not — can make all the difference.
Search your local newspaper and look at bulletins at community centers and gyms. You can also find a parent-oriented group to join online. Remember, the first group you find may not suit your style. Don’t give up. Instead, look for a place where you feel comfortable speaking out, even if it takes a couple of tries.
Dealing With PPD? Don’t Give Up
The biggest problem with postpartum anxiety is it makes you feel alone. Many go through sleepless nights of endless worrying, often questioning their sanity. You wonder if you’re fit to be a parent and if you can take care of your child. If this sounds like you, you’re not alone.
Resources are available to help you weather this storm, from mental health professionals to other moms in your shoes. Reach out to those around you and take advantage of help whenever needed. You may find that once you’ve recovered, your story and experience will help you assist other new moms who suffer the same symptoms.