So last week I wrote a post about postpartum depression. Most of it is probably facts that you have heard before. I know my doctor was very clear about the signs and symptoms associated with depression. However, that didn’t quite cover all of things that were happening to me.
Long story short, that was because I didn’t JUST have postpartum depression. I had Postpartum Anxiety too. To me, this is NOT talked about enough! It is said that 6% of pregnant women and at least 10% of new mothers experience intense anxiety. (Allen, 2018) I called it the silent partner here, and that is because it just snuck into my body and in a way that I was completely unprepared for. It is easily pushed to the back-burner because PPD looms so much bigger and darker, however it can be just as powerful and detrimental to the mother.
It is true that anxiety is kind of built into the mind of a new mother. It’s that animal instinct that makes us vigilant in trying to keep our babies safe. For some people, like me, this feeling takes over, crashing into overdrive, and making me so fearful that at times I could be unable to function.
Some identifying symptoms of PPA are racing thoughts, restlessness, sleeplessness, physical pain and tension, intense nausea, and panic attacks. It can physically manifest itself with heart palpitations, shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness, vomiting, and sweating.
Like PPD, anxiety is more common for women who have difficult or traumatic pregnancies or births, women who have experience miscarriages or stillbirths in the past, mothers who babies who are sick or need additional help like NICU babies, and family history of anxiety. However, it can still effect ANYONE. It can be experienced alone, or in conjunction with depression.
For me, PPA showed itself very early in my pregnancy. I was constantly on edge, positive that something was going to happen to my son. After he was born, it got worse. I would vomit after driving somewhere because the intense nervousness of having to drive with the baby in the car made me sick. I couldn’t follow truckers carrying logs (Which is a common occurrence where I was living in Washington State at the time) because in my head I would see this Final Destination style scenario in my head where one of the logs would come lose and shoot straight through my windshield. Sounds crazy, right? I KNOW. In my super logical brain, I knew that the chances of that happening were practically nonexistent. But still I worried incessantly. I started have shady nightmares and panic attacks for seemingly no reason.
My postpartum anxiety was treated with medication, and by working with a therapist. She taught me the benefits of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to help me deal with my uncontrollable thoughts. CBT, as it’s sometimes called, “aims to help people become aware of when they make negative interpretations, and of behavioral patterns which reinforce the distorted thinking. Cognitive therapy helps people to develop alternative ways of thinking and behaving which aims to reduce their psychological distress.” (McLeod, 1970) On a slightly different note, if you are struggling with anxiety, I highly recommend The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook. It helps you work through you anxiety and come up with a plan to counteract it all on your own! The link to the book is here:
I’m going to appeal to my readers here in a similar fashion to my PPD blog. If you are experiencing these feelings most of the day every day, having panic attacks, or having OCD like symptoms, PLEASE talk to your doctor! Anxiety can be controlled if you have just the briefest moment of courage and ask for help. Know that you are NOT alone in this crazy world, and likewise, you are NOT going crazy yourself! You have earned your Warrior Momma status too: you are trying to protect your child, and that is the most BASIC and NATURAL feeling in nature!
If you feel like you need to talk, are so overwhelmed you feel like you can’t go on, or you have thoughts of hurting yourself or your baby, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).
Allen, S. (2018, January 22). The Facts About Pregnancy and Postpartum Anxiety. Retrieved January 21, 2019, from https://drsarahallen.com/pregnancy-and-postpartum-anxiety/
McLeod, S. (1970, January 01). Saul McLeod. Retrieved January 21, 2019, from https://www.simplypsychology.org/cognitive-therapy.html