New Mama Worries, Part 2: How to Know if it's Postpartum Anxiety
“If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.” - Amit Ray
Anxiety sucks. Anxiety while being a mom really sucks.
One of the things I hear from moms is that they often blame themselves if they feel anxious. As if somehow they are failing as a mom, a partner, a person if they experience anxiety and motherhood at the same time. Maybe they just weren't cut out for this job.
But NO! That's so not true. The truth is that you do love your sweet baby and no one can parent the way you can--there is just something else going on.
What you’re feeling is not your fault. You didn’t choose to have anxiety. But, the good news is you CAN choose to find a solution that works for you or to get help. You can use your power where you have it.
First, let’s talk a little more about anxiety itself.
Last week, we talked about some of the common anxieties that every mom feels from time to time. We also talked about ways you can move past those anxieties so that they don’t disrupt your day or get in the way of you doing what you need to do.
If those tips were helpful to you, that’s awesome! I hope you feel empowered to take baby steps toward claiming your confidence as a momma. (Yes, it does take time to feel like a confident mom--it’s OK!)
But, if you read that list and still felt overwhelmed or like it just seems impossible for things to get better, that’s OK too--you might be experiencing Postpartum Anxiety and you’re definitely not alone in this. Something like 15-20% of moms experience Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders (PMADs). And that’s only counting the number of women that were willing to name it and be counted! It’s very likely that number is higher than we think. Some experts even think this number of those experiencing Postpartum Anxiety is higher than the number of women who suffer from Postpartum Depression.
To put it in perspective, 20% would be basically like one in 5 moms. That means, if you aren't struggling, you probably know a mom who is.
And if your baby was born premature, or you experienced trauma during the birth (or even a perceived trauma), you could be at a higher risk of experiencing Postpartum Anxiety or other Postpartum Mood Disorders (PMADs). Or if you struggled anxiety prior to becoming pregnant, you might be at higher risk for Postpartum Anxiety as well (although it’s important to mention that Postpartum Depression is still a possibility for those who never experienced anxiety prior to becoming pregnant because it can be caused by the dramatic shifts in hormone levels after birth).
So, what’s the difference then between the normal worries or anxieties and clinical Postpartum Anxiety?
For those experiencing Postpartum Anxiety, you might:
Be in a state of constant worry
Feel like something bad is going to happen to you
Have racing thoughts
Experience disturbances in your sleep or appetite
Experience physical symptoms like difficulty sitting still, dizziness, hot flashes, headaches, or nausea.
Possibly experience Postpartum Depression simultaneously.
Just know deep down that what you’re feeling isn’t right.
If you’re experiencing some or all of these symptoms, your situation might feel impossible or like any positive changes just can’t work for you. The important thing to observe in yourself is If your anxiety is stopping you from doing what you need to do, then it’s a problem.
The good news is that though you might feel powerless in your anxiety, your mommy superpower here is in your ability to ask for and receive help.
And, believe me, there is help available. Ask for it. And keep asking until you find something that will work for you--whether it’s a book, a support group, a good therapist, medication or any combination of these. There is the right support out there for every budget and every personality.
If you know a mom who seems to be struggling, #askher. And listen to her. Let her know there is help and support available. When you’re suffering from anxiety, it feels lonely and isolating. There is a lot of unnecessary negative stigma out there that goes with being anxious as a mom, but you can help undo that by simply being a friend.
If you think you might need some extra support in this, reach out to me. Even if I’m not in your area or the right fit for you, I can help you find another therapist or other resources that can help.
EVERY mom needs help from time to time--none of us were meant to do this all by ourselves.
And if you’re struggling or suffering, you don’t need to be. Your baby doesn’t need someone else to parent them. Your baby just needs you to be happy, healthy and supported. And you know what? You deserve that too.
You can get a jump on getting the support you need by joining my upcoming workshop, "Yours, Mine, Ours: Relationship Survival for Baby's First Year". In it, we discuss perspectives from both the birthing parent and the partner, so that both of you will know how to support each other during the transition and when new parenthood throws you curve balls. Create your Postpartum Plan, discuss what to expect, and get a free follow-up consult with me!