Postpartum Anxiety vs. Normal Mom Worries
Every new mom will worry about her infant, but what is the difference between normal stress and postpartum anxiety?
There is plenty of talk about postpartum depression, but postpartum anxiety is still widely unknown. Ten percent of women will develop this condition after they give birth, but many will not even know it. Doctors check in with new moms about whether they’re depressed, but they do not often ask about anxiety.
Postpartum anxiety can be difficult to recognize because increased worrying is a natural response to becoming suddenly responsible for a newborn. Many mothers are left confused about whether something is wrong or if they’re experiencing a normal life transition.
Normal Mom Worries
After she has a baby, a woman will naturally experience concern for her child’s wellbeing. The weight of this new responsibility can be shocking. She may not have any experience caring for a newborn. In the early days of their lives, babies are extremely fragile, and they need constant supervision to ensure their survival. It is an undeniably scary job to take on.
Hormones are also at work increasing new mothers’ anxiety levels. After giving birth, estrogen levels drop. Estrogen helps keep anxiety and depression at bay, so with less of it, these emotional responses will be stronger. This may be nature’s way of keeping the baby safe by keeping the mother extra vigilant.
Physical separation from her infant may be very stressful for a new mom (and the baby too!). Mothers will want to hold their babies, or at the very least be able to see and monitor them. This is normal, and to be expected.
So when do stress and worry stop being normal and start being postpartum anxiety?
In a nutshell, new mom fears become postpartum anxiety when they interfere with a woman’s ability to function normally. If her worries are constant and interfere with her ability to eat and sleep, something may be wrong.
Panic attacks or intrusive thoughts also indicate that a postpartum woman should talk to a professional. During a panic attack, her heart will race, and she may hyperventilate. Moms suffering from postpartum anxiety might experience panic attacks after certain worries, or they may come on for no reason.
Intrusive thoughts are constant worries about highly unlikely scenarios. A mom who imagines that a light fixture might fall and crush her infant is experiencing intrusive thoughts. Same goes for a woman who avoids crossing a bridge with her baby because it might fall. Many new parents wake at night to check if their baby is breathing, but excessive checking could indicate a problem.
While it is quite normal for a new mom to feel stressed when not holding her baby, she will usually relax when her child is returned to her. It would be less typical for her to continue stressing about his breathing or posture at this point. If the anxiety continues even when the infant is safe and warm in mom’s arms, it might be postpartum anxiety.
What To Do If You Might Have Postpartum Anxiety
If you suspect that you are experiencing postpartum, ask your OB or your pediatrician about your symptoms. Your doctor may suggest a few options. Talk therapy, holistic methods, and medications are all different possibilities. You might try one or all three.
Many women are concerned about taking medications while breastfeeding. Fortunately, some medications are safe to use while nursing.
There is a fine line between normal mom worries and postpartum anxiety. If your stress feels excessive or interferes with your ability best care for your infant and yourself, reach out for help.