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Understanding Postpartum Anxiety and What You Can Do

Anxiety, Parenting, Women's Health, Therapist Guide
5 min read

The arrival of a baby can bring on a multitude of emotions. You have been preparing yourself for this moment which included getting the nursery just right, picking out the name, the perfect coming home outfit, and curating the best baby registry so your baby would have everything they need. You get to bring baby home but after weeks you still can’t shake that excessive worry that seems to be taking up most of your day. “Did I feed the baby enough?” “I wonder if the baby is breathing?”, “If I take baby out of the house will something bad happen?”. These types of thoughts start to cloud your mind and you start becoming more irritable. You might have started staying up at night thinking about your baby being in constant danger. All these things could be an indicator that you might be experiencing postpartum anxiety.

Indicators of postpartum anxiety:

  • Disrupted sleep
  • Increased heart rate
  • Shortness of breath
  • Tense muscles
  • Feeling on edge/irritable
  • Racing thoughts regarding well-being of baby 
  • Avoiding doing things you had liked and liked doing 
  • Needing to be in control

It is common for the postpartum stage to bring on some anxiety the first couple weeks, also known as baby blues. Baby blues are typically experienced 2 to 3 days after baby arrives and can last up to two weeks. Hormone changes can cause this shift and you might notice an increase in mood swings. You are also now fully responsible for a baby and the life changes that are quickly happening before your eyes can take some time to process. Typically, there is no need for help as it will go away on its own.  If you notice your anxiety seems to get worse and your symptoms last longer than two weeks and/or are impairing your daily functioning, reach out to your doctor and let them know what you have been experiencing. Although some OBs are screening for postpartum anxiety during follow up appointments some parents might feel embarrassed to voice what is going on, but it is important to get treated so that the symptoms do not worsen overtime. 

When you are experiencing postpartum anxiety, you might have those moments when you feel your partner is not there and yet they are across the room and you’re having that overwhelming shame that you are inadequate as a parent. The idea of being alone is hard because you wonder if you can even take care of your baby, so you wake your partner up in the middle of the night because you feel like you just can’t do it alone. It’s being triggered at the sight of your baby being unable to latch and the idea that it must be because of something you are doing wrong or that you have been exposed as a fraud. Reaching out to a professional to help you navigate this will be key but there are some other things that can help too:

  • Let your partner and or family (that you trust) know how you are feeling 
  • Practice gratitude (Ex: One good thing that happened today...A moment I am grateful for today...etc)
  • Build a support system with other mothers, this can help normalize what you are experiencing because you are not alone
  • Start journaling 
  • Take a walk, slowly increase the time as you get comfortable going
  • Have easy snacks that you can grab and go and drink lots of water; although simple, these things can impact your emotional and physical state

Taking on this new role can be overwhelming and building that support system is important. Sharing how you are feeling is only going to continue normalizing how hard that transition is for others and continue breaking down that stigma of being a “super mom”. You are allowed to ask for help and you are good enough!

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About the Author: Selene Burley, is a LMFT & the owner of Brighter Thinking Therapy. She is located in California and provides telehealth therapy across the state to adults struggling with depression, anxiety, and those along their path to managing stressors that can present during the transitions of becoming parents. To learn more, view additional content she has created, or to get in touch, visit her Frame profile here