It is safe to say that there are many emotions of motherhood. Giving birth is both exciting and life changing, but also overwhelming. Pregnancy and motherhood create a blend of emotional, hormonal, and physical changes that may cause the “baby blues.” These blues often disappear after just a few weeks. Postpartum mood disorders are much more serious and can persist for weeks after giving birth. We’ve talked about postpartum depression (PPD), a serious medical condition that affects 11 to 20 percent of new moms. One of our moms asked us to talk about postpartum anxiety (PPA) – a postpartum mood disorder that can also affect new moms that is not as well-known and often goes undiagnosed.
Postpartum anxiety is often undiagnosed because most parents experience anxiety to some degree; it comes with the territory. It is when that anxiety becomes heightened enough to interfere with day-to-day life that it becomes more severe. How do you know if you have postpartum anxiety? Common symptoms may include:
- Constant worry that your baby will get sick, not get enough food or enough sleep. (While these concerns apply to most new moms, these fears are more persistent and obsessive with moms suffering from PPA.) This relentless worry may, in turn, lead to a loss of sleep and appetite for moms.
- Excessive fear that you will hurt your child by not paying enough attention to her/him and avoiding potentially dangerous things such as driving with your child in the car or walking up and down the stairs with your child, etc.
- Feelings of irritability and tension which lead to an inability to focus on tasks or sit still.
- Physical symptoms such as chest tightening, dizziness, hot flashes, nausea, shallow breathing, and stomach soreness.
Postpartum anxiety can happen to any woman who gives birth. Experiencing PPA does not make you a bad person or a bad mother. Postpartum mood disorders are treatable. Call your doctor if you are experiencing any of the above symptoms. He or she will help guide you through proper treatment of your anxiety. We also recommend peer support. You can use resources online to connect with other moms or attend community-based support groups. Talking with your peers allows you to share experiences and make you realize an important point – you are not alone.