Do you worry about Postpartum Anxiety?
You’re not alone and you’re not crazy! Here is a list of some Postpartum Anxiety Symptoms:
- Do you experience nervousness, anxiety, or difficulty to relax throughout the day?
- Do you find yourself having panic attacks, pressure in the chest, difficulty breathing, dizziness and other stress symptom when awake or even during sleep?
- Do you feel keyed up most of the time and react intensely to even small things that happen to you and around you?
- Do you find yourself having unwanted intrusive thoughts and images such as unrealistic fears of your baby or yourself being harmed?
Most Anxious moms’ thoughts and stress tend to center around their baby, their baby’s health and wellbeing. The symptoms of postpartum anxiety can make any otherwise normal mom feel overwhelmed, crazy, guilty and doubtful about her competency to be a good mother.
The reality is that you are not crazy and you are not a horrible mom. There is a name to what you are feeling – Postpartum Anxiety.
Let me fill you in on a little secret; you are not alone. What you’re feeling, many other moms feel too. It’s a touchy topic that many women feel uncomfortable to talk about openly.
Studies have found that 1out of every 7 women suffers from moderate to severe symptoms of maternal anxiety OCD, depression, or adjustment stress that can even result in a total breakdown.
Generalized anxiety with panic attacks
When a mom is intensely anxious for an extended period of time, it gradually takes a toll on her overall wellness. Anxiety tires our body and mind, reducing the ability to function, perform tasks and enjoy relationships. The presence of panic attacks can make things even worse.
Panic attacks can come without any warning and they are especially frightening because they resemble the symptoms of a heart attack – pressure in the chest, difficulty breathing, palpitations, dizziness, numbness and tingling.
Ongoing anxiety can cause the development of fatigue, insomnia and fear of leaving the house. Mothers with panic disorder are often awakened out of their sleep which is very disorienting.
Studies reveal that between 4 and 10 percent of women suffer from postpartum panic disorder. Unfortunately, it is underdiagnosed and underreported.
Mothers who suffer from Anxiety mixed with Postpartum Depression may experience anxiety symptoms intertwined with deep sadness, crying spells, disrupted sleep and/or appetite, helplessness and hopelessness. The experience can be so overwhelming and confusing, many describe it like feeling “lost in a fog”.
It’s not uncommon for very anxious moms to feel emotionally detached from their baby, spouse and family. Feeling like they are just going through the motions without affection or feeling of connection.
Perinatal Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Unexpected events during pregnancy or childbirth, severe pain, illness, danger to mother, danger to baby or even family crisis can trigger traumatic responses for some moms. For other women, giving birth and becoming a mom may be a traumatic reminder of earlier events in their lives, like sexual, physical, and emotional abuse or neglect, being adopted or other related events.
Obsessive compulsive (OCD) Anxiety
Moms with OCD often experience obsessional fears mostly related to the wellbeing of their baby. Many women have excessive fears of exposure to germs or contamination and excessive behaviors around safety and security.
It’s true most mothers tend to worry and are hyper aware of the baby needs and wellbeing. But when a mother experiences OCD, that behavior is beyond normal worry.
Her worries and rituals become consuming and it makes leaving home with the baby an overwhelming ordeal. One mother I treated for post partum anxiety from Calabasas, confided that she mostly avoids going out because of her OCD which makes her feel isolated and trapped in her home, but mostly …. in her mind.
In my experience working with struggling moms I find they often don’t recognize the compulsion going on inside of them. They are often overwhelmed, scared and lost for words.
Taking the First Step to Healing from Postpartum Anxiety
The first step in helping mothers who struggle with anxiety is to let them know that they are not alone, it’s not their fault, and with help they can feel better and enjoy being a mom.
Maternal mental health issues come with a stigma and scary diagnostic labels The experience of postpartum anxiety and/or depression (PPD) can be nerve-wracking and the diagnosis label can feel scary. There is stigma and damaging misconceptions about the experience that can end up discourage a mom who struggles to reach out for help and get better. Myths like:
- It’s your fault if you aren’t feeling that Motherhood is a wonderful happy time
- Postpartum anxiety will ruin your motherhood experience for the rest of your life
- Scary thoughts about yourself and/or your baby and the world are a sign you are crazy
- You can just snap out of your postpartum anxiety or stress, just focus on the positive
The reality is that:
- Motherhood is wonderful but not always. You will feel joy and happiness but also stress challenges and even crisis… it’s not always a smooth path. Don’t blame yourself, it’s not your fault, its life!
- Mothers who suffer from postpartum depression or maternal stress are overwhelmed, fatigued and preoccupied with anxiety and guilt which makes it difficult to connect emotionally even to the ones they love the most.
- Postpartum anxiety and depression is more than just feeling the blues, or feeling occasionally sad. It is a persistent feeling that something is wrong, feeling joy day to day and functioning is a struggle.
- You can’t just snap out of postpartum depression but with the right treatment and support you can recover and enjoy your motherhood.
The truth behind unwanted scary thoughts mother’s have
Did you know that many moms find themselves having unwanted repetitive terrifying thoughts they can’t get off their mind no matter how much they try. Common fearful thinking like:
- What if I’m going to drop my baby and he breaks his head?
- What if my baby drowns while I give him a bath?
- I can picture myself dropping my baby when I go down the steps
- I’m afraid I might take one of the knives in the kitchen and stab my baby or What if I slip and one of the knives falls on my baby?
- I’m afraid I might drive off the road with my baby in the car
- I think my family would be better off without me
Intrusive Unwanted Negative Thoughts
In the moment, intrusive thoughts are very scary and the first instinct might be to push them away, not tell anyone about it and suffer horrible anxiety and self-doubt.
These intrusive thoughts might seem pathological at first glance but what they actually mean is that our mind is playing tricks on us due to anxiety, sleep deprivation and worries about the safety of our children.
Clinical observations validate time and again that intrusive thoughts actually show that the women who have them are not crazy, because the thought is disturbing to them and they want to protect their children.
Talking about dark thoughts and feelings with a maternal wellness counselor who understands in a nonjudgmental environment can provide much needed relief to a struggling and worried mom and also help her adopt a helpful approach to cope and release these unwanted thoughts.
Getting help for Anxiety doesn’t mean you are a weak person
I have met many moms who entered my therapy office that are very strong women who seek help with anxiety, depression and PTSD. This misconception is mostly an issue of stigma and embarrassment to receive help.
Think about it, when someone develops a physical illness, no one accuses them of bad parenting. Don’t let such misconceptions stop you from seeking the help you need and deserve.
Even though well-intentioned; your loved ones, family and friends might not be able to help you. The good news I want you to know is that Postpartum Depression, Anxiety, OCD, Psychosis and Adjustment Stress is highly treatable and you can be helped right away.
You don’t have to keep pretending that you are fine when you are not! Your life can get better – YOU can get better!