Mental health disorders related to having given birth, such as anxiety and depression, are referred to as postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety. They’re caused by biological, psychological, environmental and hormonal changes. The most common complications from childbirth are postpartum anxiety and depression. We have previously written about postpartum depression and in this post will focus on postpartum anxiety. If you think you may be anxious or depressed as a result of childbirth, you should know the following:
You are certainly not alone. Up to 15% of women experience postpartum anxiety within the first year of childbirth.
It is not your fault. Postpartum anxiety affects new mothers regardless of marital status, age, income or educational level and/or race.
There is help that can make you feel better. Postpartum disorders are treated with counseling, self-help techniques, social support and when necessary, medication.
Pregnancy & Postpartum Anxiety (PPA)
Several distinct anxiety disorders may occur postpartum:
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is when the new mother is experiencing obsessions or persistent thoughts that are often about harming the baby and/or repetitive compulsions and/or ritualistic behaviors that she is having difficulty controlling.
Panic Disorder is when the new mother is experiencing extreme feelings of anxiety accompanied by chest pains, sweating, dizziness, shaking, etc. This is typically associated with a specific place or event.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is when the new mother is overly worried or anxious and is having difficulty controlling it. These are typically associated with insomnia, fatigue, muscle tension and/or restlessness.
Approximately 10% to 15% of new mothers will experience postpartum anxiety disorders. Typically healthcare professionals will recommend that any physical problem be ruled out before a definitive diagnosis is made. These could be hypothyroidism and/or hypoglycemia. Sometimes new mothers will be surprised at the physical symptoms they have. For example, one new mother would often have “attacks” early in the morning hours, consisting of stomach and chest pains. These symptoms would be followed by worries about her ability to take care of her baby and feeling distraught.
The following are some questions new mothers can answer to help them determine whether you may be suffering from any of these postpartum disorders:
Is your anxiety so extreme that you cannot take adequate care of your baby?
Do you fear harming yourself or the baby? If so, is it so extreme that you’re afraid you won’t be able to stop yourself?
Can your compulsions harm the baby?
Is your anxiety keeping your from eating or sleeping?
If your answers are “yes” to any of the above, you should talk about your symptoms with a healthcare professional. If you have received treatment but are not responding as expected, you may need a higher level of care due to the severity of your symptoms.