themighty logo

5 Things to Know About Postpartum Anxiety

Throughout my pregnancy my doctor would go over the signs for postpartum depression (PPD) so I knew what to look for. After my daughter was born our follow-up visits always included questions to look for postpartum depression. To be honest, it was a real concern of mine. I had struggled with depression in the past and felt almost destined to have it steal my joy of celebrating the life of my precious daughter.

Then my daughter decided to make her entrance four weeks early – we were not ready at all. I was ordering last minute things from Amazon while in the hospital so we would have the essentials for her when we brought her home. Certainly, this was going to bring on PPD, but it never came. Sure I had the usual “baby blues” shortly after returning home, but it was short-lived and not nearly as bad as I expected.

Instead, I began to feel something entirely different; anxiety like I had never experienced before. It didn’t start right away, and when it did start it came on gradual. At first, I noticed I’d get dizzy at times and I’d have heart palpitations. I had trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. Eventually, it progressed to the point where I didn’t want to leave the house and would get panic attacks in the car. I felt like I was losing my mind, my thoughts were racing so quickly that I had trouble finishing my sentences. Desperate for answers, I began documenting when episodes occurred, how long they lasted and how severe they were. I also noted the onset of things – two or three months after my daughter was born. I began researching and found information on postpartum anxiety. I wasn’t losing my mind after all!

The following are some important tips I have gathered on PPA.  I hope they helps someone else, as they have really helped me.

1. You are not alone.

Postpartum depression gets all the attention, but it is actually believed that almost the same number of woman experience some degree of postpartum anxiety  (PPA), but it gets under reported. The key is the degree of the PPA.  Some will experience far less anxiety and may just have trouble sleeping, for instance. Each person has her own unique experience when it comes to anxiety and it is not a one-size-fits-all treatment.

2. The earlier you seek treatment, the better.

If I could go back in time, I would have mentioned it to my doctor right away. It started out as something small, which I just assumed were my hormones settling back down, but then it escalated to something that was keeping me from doing my daily activities without a sense of panic. By the time I mentioned it to my doctor, it was out-of-control. It’s taken a long time to find the right combination of medication to get it under control, but I’m there now.

3. It may not go away.

Just like some other unpleasant effects of pregnancy, postpartum anxiety may not go away. But the good news is there are so many mindfulness and grounding techniques that are available to help you can feel in control. Counseling is also helpful because it allows you to get those thoughts out and face them head on in a supported environment. For some people, that may be enough to combat PPA, but for others there are medications available to help you cope.

4. Don’t be afraid to reach out for support.

The last thing I wanted was to leave the house to meet other moms. Fortunately, there is a huge online community of parents building each other up. If you are looking for more of an in-person thing, there are mom groups, library story times and more to interact with other moms. There is even a “Mom Tinder” app, Peanut, that helps you meet moms and their babies in your area. The key is to have somewhere to share your concerns and joy.

5. Don’t feel like a failure.

It is easy to beat yourself up when you don’t feel absolute bliss after your baby is born. But think of all the changes your body went through to bring this new life into the world. Your entire body was involved in growing your baby; your hair changed, your hands and feet swelled, food started tasting different. There is no reason to feel like a failure if you come out of this experience a little different.

My journey with postpartum anxiety has had its ups and downs, but knowing that it is something others experience as well has helped me, and counseling has been fantastic. So while postpartum depression gets most of the attention, I believe there is a need to educate more people about postpartum anxiety so they can get help before it snowballs out of control.

You’ve got this. I believe in you.

And while you’re still reading —you are doing a great job raising your child.

Photo credit: Estradaanton/Getty Images