You may worry about your ability to take care of your baby. Some anxiety is normal – it is there to help you protect your baby. It may be expressed as being hyper-alert and hyper-vigilant.
Normally, when your baby is sick, crying a lot, or seems underweight, your anxiety can increase, but you will calm down as soon as your baby feels better.
However, in some situations your anxiety may intensify. When anxiety becomes overwhelming and consuming you may be unable to stop thinking about what may go wrong with your baby. Or, you might have difficultly taking care of yourself or your baby. If the anxiety, worry and fear feel out of control, you may be experiencing Postpartum Anxiety (PPA). It is also possible that you may experience Postpartum Depression along with the anxiety.
Signs of Postpartum Anxiety:
- Feeling anxious or panicky
- Constantly worried about yourself or your baby
- Feeling you need to hold your baby all the time
- Doubtful that anyone else, even the father, can take care of your baby
- Always fearing something bad will happen
- Restless and unable to relax, even when your baby is sleeping
- Distressed by your unwanted (intrusive) thoughts
- Afraid of losing your mind or going crazy
- Afraid to talk about your feelings because people will think you are crazy and/or will take your child away
Risk Factors for Postpartum Anxiety:
You may be at risk for Postpartum Anxiety if you have experienced the following previously:
- Pregnancy loss
- A High risk pregnancy
- Difficult or traumatic birth
- A threat to your or baby’s life
- Lack of support in caring for your baby
- Relationship problems
- A recent stressful event
- Depression or anxiety before, or during pregnancy
If you suffer from postpartum anxiety, you don’t have to feel ashamed. PPA affects one in 10 pregnant women and new moms.
What you are going through probably feels horrible right now. Here are some steps you can take to feel yourself again:
- Don’t Be Alone It is very stressful to be home alone with a new born. A common trigger for anxiety or a panic attack is you are at home alone to often with your newborn. If you have to stay alone, call your mom or a supportive friend. Hire a nanny if you can. Join a Mother-Baby play group. Social engagement can boost your mood, while isolation can worsen your emotions.
- Talk it out Try to identify what is bothering you and then talk about it with someone you trust. Identifying your feelings puts you in a better position to change them and control them. Suppressing your worries can have a rebound affect and cause more distress for you and your baby. A recent MRI study found that simple act of naming feelings calms the bran and regulates painful and difficult emotions. Denying the ready-to-erupt-volcano of emotions will make the explosion stronger. “What you name you can tame.”
- Allow Yourself Time to Adjust to Being a Mother Being a mom is stressful. Bringing your baby home means that there will be some chaos for a while. It takes time to recover physically and emotionally from labor. It also takes time to get to know your baby. Get comfortable with a little bit of disruption, chaos and mess at home.
- Don’t Take Your Thoughts Literally Your thoughts are different from your actions. Just because you think of something doesn’t mean you intend to act on it. Intrusive thoughts are common, they are distressing, but they don’t mean moms act on them.What goes on in your mind is also separate from reality. The mind is imaginative; you can work yourself into frenzy by imagining what can go wrong. You can even have an anxiety attack, by losing the separateness between the inner world and the outer world. Try to remind yourself that your thoughts are simply thoughts – they are fears and worries, not reality.
- Limit the Time You Spend On Internet Seeking Information Many new moms seek information about parenting and babies online. While you can learn about signs of postpartum anxiety on the Internet, and even get support via on-line chat groups, spending too much time on-line can be counterproductive – especially if you spend your time searching for what can go wrong. You may start wandering “what if that happens to me?” and end up panicked. Find professional and reputable sites and limit the time you spend on them. Read positive stories of women and new babies. Get off line a few hours before you go to bed.
- Exercise Exercise rivals antidepressant and anti-anxiety medication in its effectiveness. Regular vigorous exercise 30-40min a day is as effective as medication in reducing mild and moderate depression and anxiety. If you are too tired to exercise at least go outside for a short walk. Being outdoors will lift your mood. Do yoga. It can reduce stress and relax you. Exercise will help quiet the constant stream of thoughts in your head.
- Seek Professional Counseling Therapy should be your first choice if you experience even mild and moderate postpartum anxiety. If you experience severe postpartum anxiety (e.g., difficulty sleeping, or intrusive thoughts) you may consider seeing a doctor to get explore the possibility of medication. For all postpartum anxiety or depression seek help from an expert who specializes in women and anxiety. If you work with the specialist, you will heal faster. The therapist will provide support and help you regain confidence as a mom.
If you are currently feeling anxious, you don’t have to suffer alone. Postpartum Anxiety can be treated with professional help. If you get intervention early you can prevent the negative long-term effects Postpartum Anxiety has on you and your children. You will provide the best chance that your child will develop without possible mental health or educational problems. With appropriate care both you and your baby will benefit.
Call Dr. Irena for FREE 10-minute phone consultation at (281)267-1742.