How You Can Heal From Postpartum Anxiety
Imagine this: you’ve just given birth to a beautiful, healthy baby. This is supposed to be one of the happiest times in your life, at least according to society. You’d expected to spend this time bonding with your baby, and feeling all of the love and joy that comes along with being a new parent.
Instead, you only feel fear.
You can’t stop worrying about your baby: Is she okay? Is she breathing? Does she feel a little hot, or is it just my imagination? Your thoughts are a never-ending cycle of worst-case scenarios. You feel constantly on edge, and you’re not getting any sleep.
You know it’s normal to feel some worry after having a baby, but this feels different. You feel like your mind is out of control, and it’s not getting any better with time.
If you’re feeling this way, you’re not alone — and you’re not a bad parent. Many people feel this way after giving birth, and they may be diagnosed with a condition called postpartum anxiety. The good news is that, with the right treatment, you recover and start fully enjoying the precious time you have with your little one.
Here’s everything you need to know about postpartum anxiety, including its signs, symptoms, and treatment options.
What Is Postpartum Anxiety?
To a degree, some anxiety after giving birth is normal. Every new parent worries. Most parents spend a lot of time thinking about their newborns, and worry about their health or whether they’re meeting all of their milestones. Experiencing some worries can absolutely be a normal part of being a first-time parent.
But for some new parents, the worries may start growing more and more intense. For example, you might spend every waking moment worrying about your child. You might be overcome with worries that you know, logically, are irrational — things like kidnapping or sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
You might fear taking your eyes off your baby, even briefly, for fear that something terrible might happen if you did. It goes without saying that worrying, to this degree, can start to severely disrupt your life. If your worries about your baby are more intense than what’s considered “normal,” you may be diagnosed with postpartum anxiety disorder.
Symptoms of postpartum anxiety disorder
If you’re like most people, you’ve probably heard of postpartum depression, but the idea of postpartum anxiety might be new to you. Postpartum anxiety is diagnosed when a person develops symptoms of an anxiety disorder during pregnancy or shortly after giving birth.
It’s more common than you might think; according to one report, up to 21% of women develop an anxiety disorder during pregnancy or after childbirth.
The most common symptoms of postpartum anxiety include:
- Excessive worry that is disproportionate to the trigger
- Racing, all-consuming thoughts
- Constantly feeling restless or on-edge
- Difficulty sleeping because of worries
- Fatigue or exhaustion
- Tense muscles
- Rapid heartbeat
- Sweating or trembling
- Unexplained stomach problems
- Trouble concentrating
Many people with postpartum anxiety share similar worries. SIDS is one trigger that many people with postpartum anxiety worry excessively about. Other worries may include:
- One’s own health
- The baby’s health or fears that the baby will die suddenly
- Fears about a partner dying
- Irrational obsessions, like that your baby will be kidnapped
- That you are to blame if things go wrong
It’s important to note that postpartum anxiety isn’t a diagnosis that’s included in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM), the authority on psychiatric diagnoses. Instead, you may be diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). Mental health experts refer to “postpartum anxiety” when GAD comes on in the postpartum period.
Treatment for Postpartum Anxiety
Postpartum anxiety causes your brain to tell you lies: lies about the safety and health of your baby, as well as lies about your own ability to be a parent.
Luckily, postpartum anxiety is a highly treatable condition. With treatment, you can recover from these symptoms and start enjoying your time as a new parent.
The most important thing to remember is that it’s important to get treated. Postpartum anxiety isn’t likely to go away on its own. Living with postpartum anxiety gets in the way of your ability to live your daily life and care for your baby. And, when left untreated, it can lead to serious long-term consequences for both you and your newborn — as well as the relationship between you.
Some of the possible risks and consequences of leaving postpartum anxiety untreated include:
- Substance use disorder
- Worsening in co-occurring mental health disorders, like depression
- Suicide or infanticide
- Interruption in mother-infant bonding
- Decreased likelihood of breastfeeding
- Negative effects on the child’s development, temperament, and behavior
Again, you’re not a bad parent, and having postpartum anxiety is not your fault. But it is your responsibility to get treatment once you’ve realized that you’re suffering.
There are many different treatment methods available for postpartum anxiety, and what works for other people may not work for you. The path you take in regards to your treatment should be decided by you and your healthcare provider alone.
Some effective treatments for postpartum anxiety include:
Different therapy methods, like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), can help you start challenging the irrational fears that postpartum anxiety causes. For example, a therapist can help you examine the thought, “Something terrible is bound to happen,” and help you take a closer look at how realistic or truthful that is.
A therapist can give you a safe place where you can express the pain that postpartum anxiety has caused you, as well as teach you new coping skills to deal with that pain.
Different psychiatric medications can be helpful for any kind of anxiety, including postpartum anxiety. This might be helpful if you’re also dealing with postpartum depression. However, it’s understandable that many people don’t want to take medication while they’re breastfeeding.
Transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS therapy, is a new type of treatment that’s been found to be helpful and safe for many different mental health conditions, including depression and anxiety.
Best of all, it’s safe for people who’ve just given birth. Unlike medication, there are little to no side effects, and the serious risks are low. TMS might be a great, drug-free treatment option for you if you don’t want to take medication because of the risks or side effects.
Don’t let postpartum anxiety continue to ruin what’s supposed to be a beautiful time in life. It can be scary to admit that what you’re experiencing might be more than just normal jitters that come along with being a first-time parent. But once you can recognize the symptoms of postpartum anxiety in yourself, you can start to come to terms with how much this disorder has affected you. With treatment, you can heal from postpartum anxiety and start truly bonding with your baby.
If you’re interested in trying TMS therapy for postpartum anxiety, contact the TMS experts at Southern Colorado TMS today. Our team is highly experienced in providing treatment for people who are going through exactly what you’re going through, we strive to always show compassion and understanding to every client who walks through our doors.