Postpartum anxiety: Symptoms and treatments

what is postpartum anxiety

Having a baby is a life-changing event. So, it makes sense that after months of pregnancy, a hormonal transformation, watching your body grow, and giving birth to a child you may experience some anxiety.

What is postpartum anxiety?

It’s natural to be worried after giving birth and to fixate on your baby’s needs as you two are getting to know and learning about each other. While increased anxiety the first few weeks after labor is normal, an increased and sustained level of anxiety that persists is considered postpartum anxiety. If your anxiety has you constantly on edge, is inhibiting your ability to sleep and eat normally, and seems uncontrollable, your anxiety may be more than just new parents' worries.

What are the symptoms of postpartum anxiety?

While postpartum anxiety may not be as well known as postpartum depression, its symptoms are very real and can greatly impact your day-to-day life. In one study, nearly 20% of parents who had recently given birth reported symptoms of anxiety after labor.prenatal-multi-dhaThere are many physical and emotional symptoms of postpartum anxiety, including:

  • Constant or very frequent worry that you cannot ease
  • Feelings of dread and racing thoughts
  • Inability to sleep when your baby is sleeping peacefully
  • Inability to relax
  • Fatigue
  • Sweating
  • Hyperventilation
  • Heart palpitations
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Shakiness or trembling

In some cases, postpartum anxiety can result in a postpartum anxiety attack, which can include feeling like you are unable to breathe, intense fear of death for you or your new child, dizziness, and/or a racing heart. It’s also important to know that you can experience postpartum anxiety and postpartum depression at the same time.

Am I at risk for postpartum anxiety?

You may be more likely to experience postpartum anxiety for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Previous history of anxiety before pregnancy
  • Family history of anxiety
  • Previous history of disordered eating
  • Commonly experienced mood-related symptoms with your period

Additionally, one study found that women with previous miscarriages, stillbirths, or the death of an infant were more likely to have postpartum anxiety. Young mothers, those who had c-sections, and women with higher educations were also more likely to report postpartum anxiety

What to do if you think you have postpartum anxiety

Postpartum anxiety may seem like another overwhelming thing on a list of already overwhelming things to deal with as a new parent. But, that doesn’t mean you have to suffer through it.

If you believe you’re experiencing postpartum anxiety, keep track of your symptoms, their frequency, and intensity and share them with your primary care provider. While most doctors schedule a postpartum follow-up six weeks after delivery, you can reach out to your physician at any time if you’re concerned about your symptoms.

Treating postpartum anxiety

Traditional mental health therapy techniques can help reduce the symptoms felt during postpartum anxiety. Discuss options with your health care provider to find the best suited to your needs. Some find success in managing their anxiety with cognitive behavioral therapy, which can help you rethink worst-case scenarios and stop spiraling thoughts in their tracks.

Other types of coping skills you can try are exercise, meditation, diet, and other relaxation techniques to ease your symptoms as they arise. While it may seem impossible with a new baby, doctors also recommend getting more higher-quality sleep to help reduce anxiety symptoms. Some herbal remedies have shown some benefit though further studies may be needed. It’s important to talk with your doctor about these, especially if you are taking any prescription medications or nursing.

Have questions? Stix is here to help. If you’re looking for guidance during your pregnancy, Real Talk has the answers to all of your pregnancy and postpartum questions. Check out more pregnancy information on Real Talk for more tips, recommendations, and a community of support.

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