Postpartum anxiety never crossed my mind when I became a new mother.
Instead, my soul was awakened with a fire I didn’t even know existed. A love I always yearned for, but never felt. I realized everything before that moment didn’t matter anymore. My story, my past. None of it. The only thing I could feel was this overflowing abundance of love for this tiny new human that I had made. This wonderful gift from God.
The proudest moment of my life was looking into his eyes for the first time.
The first few days home, I cried so hard. I was overly emotional. I wondered if it was postpartum depression but I never really got it checked out. All of the stuff I had googled made postpartum depression sound like a horrible plague where you hate your child and don’t want anything to do with them. That wasn’t the case for me. I was overly in love with my new bundle of joy. I was just unstable.
The proudest moment of my life was looking into his eyes for the first time.
I would have breakdowns every couple of days where I would just cry. It wasn’t that I was sad, I was just worried. Overly worried, like something bad was going to happen to him. This made me super protective. I hated letting other people hold him. I felt like they weren’t going to do it right. When it came to sleep, I didn’t put him in his own room, I made him stay in our room, beside me in his rock and play and eventually in my arms.
My birthday was three days after his birth and I couldn’t even leave the house for an hour with my husband because I felt like I had to be there with my baby. Was this normal?
I brushed my feelings off as new mom jitters. I mean, your hormones are so screwed up after you have a baby, you will literally laugh hysterically at something and then cry a river two minutes later. Completely normal, right?
But the days passed, and then weeks passed, and I still felt off. I wanted to put a label on what I was feeling but I couldn’t and it was frustrating. I was nervous all the time, worried, snappy to my innocent husband, sad. But why?! Why was I feeling this way? I had everything I had ever wanted. I was honestly so happy but at the same time so stressed. It was like an alter ego of Jekyll and Hyde.
During my first follow up appointment with my OBGYN, I told her how I was feeling. “Totally normal,” she said as she recommended different brands of depression medicine. I declined. I was breastfeeding and already on something that was considered safe for the baby. I drove home that day in tears because I felt like everyone was brushing off my feelings.
Finally, after several late nights of research and talking to friends and family, I realized it wasn’t postpartum depression that I was suffering from, it was postpartum anxiety (or perinatal anxiety). Cousin to postpartum depression, only 10% of new moms get it. [via Postpartum Support International.]
What is Postpartum (Perinatal) Anxiety?
Postpartum anxiety is a condition that causes you to feel a constant, paralyzing sense of worry. You worry constantly about the health and development of your baby. You question your ability to be a good parent, you question how you’ll juggle work, being a new mom, being a good wife, and everything in between. It makes you feel restless, moody, and can even make you feel physically ill. Postpartum anxiety can begin before your baby is born and arise at any time within the first year. Below are other signs of Postpartum anxiety.
Signs of Postpartum or Perinatal Anxiety
- Anxiety or fear that interrupts your thoughts and interferes with daily tasks
- Panic attacks — outbursts of extreme fear and panic that are overwhelming and feel difficult to bring under control
- Anxiety and worries that keep coming into your mind and are difficult to stop or control
- Constantly feeling irritable, restless or on edge
- Having tense muscles, a tight chest and heart palpitations
- Finding it difficult to relax and/or taking a long time to fall asleep at night
- Anxiety or fear that leads you to check on your baby constantly
- Your thoughts are racing. You can’t quiet your mind. You can’t settle down. You can’t relax
- You feel like you have to be doing something at all times. Cleaning bottles. Cleaning baby clothes. Cleaning the house. Doing work. Entertaining the baby
If you are experiencing any of the above feelings, know that you ARE NOT ALONE. These inner feelings do not indicate your worthiness as a mother. They are expected and treatable symptoms of a common disorder.
When I first started feeling these signs of postpartum anxiety, I did feel alone. I talked to a few friends who had babies and none of them could relate to what I was feeling. That’s when I decided to reach out to a local perinatal therapist who recommended I look up Postpartum Support International.
I joined their online community (for free) and had access to an online support group and informative blogs that reassured me I was not alone. I also learned different methods to cope with my postpartum anxiety. Here is what I found worked for me:
How to Cope with Postpartum Anxiety
We all know as a new parent, getting a good night’s sleep is a struggle. This is where I HAD to ask for help. Whether it was my husband taking over for the day and letting me catch up on sleep, or reaching out to family for their help. I had to get some rest to recharge my body and mind so that I could give my best self.
Exercise assists in postpartum anxiety recovery by increasing energy, metabolizing stress hormones, and by helping women get out of their heads. I was so lucky to have access to a personal trainer at my work during this hard time. I remember working out one day and feeling an overwhelming sense of euphoria. Holding back (happy) tears, I expressed my gratitude to Jen for helping me feel better about myself and bringing out the “good” in me.
Do Something For Yourself
Being a mom means putting everyone else before yourself but if you find yourself suffering from postpartum anxiety, you have to treat yourself a little different. Go get a pedicure, go get your hair done, make an appointment at Sephora to have someone do your make up. Anything that makes you feel good, do it! Most importantly, DO NOT BE ASHAMED.
Coping Mechanisms from Real Moms
“Up your Vitamin D intake, get outside more, get away from technology.” – Fredrika
“I’ve read what’s help is get out more even if you don’t want to talk to people keep busy” -Crystal
“Essential oils!? There are several for calming and mood.” -Tonya
“Zoloft. It works amazingly. I love it. U will start feeling better soon. I started to feel better a week taking it and I feel so great.” -Melissa
“Magnesium and calcium really help me, I think the combo helps with absorption.” -Leah
“Write in a journal. You know how it’s always so easy to give someone else advice, but you always second guess yourself? Writing in a journal is almost like talking to someone else. When you read it back, or even after it gets on paper, everything becomes clearer.” -April
“My midwife prescribed me Buspar- it’s an as needed and has seriously been a miracle for my anxiety attacks. In addition I also use an app on my phone that does guided breathing and meditation. I like it a lot. The one I use is called Calm, I just use the free version and don’t worry about buying the extras. Sending much love and calming thoughts to you.” -Misar
How Long Does Postpartum Anxiety Last?
There’s a general notion that postpartum depression and anxiety should be over by the time your baby turns one, but that is not always the case. It really depends on how long you waited to reach out for help, whether or not you have a history of anxiety and depression, what your home environment is like, how much support you are receiving, and how dedicated you can be to treatment and self-care practices. Here’s a great article on recovery.
No matter how pervasive your symptoms are, you can certainly get better. You won’t feel like this forever, as long as you’re willing to get treatment and care. According to postpartum.org, factors that may minimize the length of your anxiety include:
- Recognizing the symptoms and getting help early
- Self-care practices
- Support Groups
- Consultation with your doctor about medication options
- Developing a personal support system that may include a partner, friends, or parents
- Private counseling services
For me personally, once I took the time to focus on my mental health and recharge myself, I noticed a positive change in my mood and overall health. I went through postpartum anxiety for about 6 months before I noticed things getting better.
If you have any of these symptoms or you’re experiencing what I did. First and foremost, know that you are not alone. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help. If you’re embarrassed or feel like you have no one to turn to, reach out to me! You got this mama! There is a light at the end of the tunnel.