Are you one of the 10% of women with postpartum anxiety? Don’t let the anxiety that can spiral out of control after motherhood rule your life any longer. Postpartum anxiety is difficult to diagnose or even recognize with the massive amount of changes in a woman’s life when she adds to her family. However, symptoms like racing thoughts, constant worry, and physical manifestations like nausea, sleeplessness and/or headaches are NOT just part of the new mom package. If you’re experiencing postpartum anxiety symptoms, take care of yourself and get help. You deserve to be the happy and healthy mom that your family needs.
You’re not crazy, and you don’t have to “just deal with it.” While Postpartum anxiety isn’t as well known as postpartum depression, it’s a real condition and can be treated, so don’t settle for a quality of life that isn’t fantastic. Those little people need us too much for us to be less than the happiest versions of ourselves.
What it looks like
Picture this: It’s 2:30 a.m. and you’re still awake from the 1:00 a.m. nursing session that lasted 30 minutes. With each passing minute you’re becoming more and more stressed about the need to wake up again and possibly nurse your baby, and then somehow pull yourself together for work when your alarm goes off at 6:00 a.m. Meanwhile the list of a hundred things you have to get done both at home and at work is running on loop through your mind, making you feel physically sick. You’re wound up and have no idea how you’re going to get through the next day.
Do I have postpartum anxiety?
Does the above scenario sound familiar? If you’re a new mom it’s more than likely happened at least once. However, these feelings that come along with a new addition to the family shouldn’t be a daily occurrence. Yes, we all have stressful periods. No, not everyone can’t sleep every night or is constantly worried and convinced that their baby will face some horrible demise. If you’re having anxious thoughts, trouble sleeping, or physical symptoms more than just occasionally, it’s more than likely postpartum anxiety.
Why does this happen
My super non-technical or medical degreed self thinks that postpartum anxiety happens for a combination of reasons, but I’ll also bring up some science in a minute.
It’s the darn hormones and your brain
First off, your brain and hormones change drastically when you have a baby. You’re producing pregnancy hormones one minute then all of those immediately rush away as the baby starts living outside you. Immediately you start producing breastfeeding hormones. Conveniently, these are different than the ones you made during pregnancy*.
If this isn’t enough to at least make your body confused I don’t know what is. Also, your brain actually changes. Huge deal. Most anxiety (including postpartum anxiety) can be linked to an imbalance of chemicals in your brain, so these hormone shifts are no joke.
Lack of sleep drives you nuts
You basically stopped sleeping. No one functions well without sleep. Lack of sleep has been studied and may even make you crazy. It’s literally impossible to survive without sleep, and yet new moms run on 0-3 hours at a time for months on end. Of COURSE you’re a little stressed out. Combine this with returning to work and you’ve got a recipe for anxiety on your hands.
The “mental load” adds more to your already frayed system
I love reading articles about the mental load of motherhood because they are just so darn relatable. While I have a world class husband who helps out with everything from meal prep to bedtime to getting our little lady dressed and out the door in the morning, I’m still stressed by being the one who always has to remember. Everything. All the time.
Lack of control
Maybe I’m the only one (I doubt it), but realizing that post baby sometimes you have to let things go in order to stay sane was a tough pill to swallow. I’m a clean and organized person by nature so it went against every fiber in my being to leave dishes in the sink, burp cloths on the couch or pump parts soaking overnight. Pre-baby everything had a place and I was able to get everything “done” before the next day or week began. After baby all that went out the window. I’ll admit, my house isn’t a total trainwreck to the untrained eye, but for me, there has been a serious downgrade.
So how can I actually fix postpartum anxiety?
First of all, acknowledging your feelings and expressing them to your partner and support system is key. You can’t get help and support if you don’t ask for it. Second – know that you aren’t crazy and that you can get help.
- Try to get more sleep. I know – easier said than done. If you can pump an extra session and let dad give a bottle once during the night that can be a life saver.
- Talk to your doctor. If your symptoms persist there are multiple medications you can go on that are safe to use while breastfeeding, and can drastically improve your quality of life.
- Ask for help. Hire a housecleaner. Or a babysitter. Or both. Think of it as an investment in your health and know that you may need the extra support for awhile.
- Give yourself a break. Know that this is a temporary phase and even without medical treatment the anxiety will likely pass once your hormones sort themselves out. In the meantime, don’t try to be perfect, let the dishes go, and cuddle that adorable little one that is likely still snuggled in your arm.
Although there are a million more reasons to be anxious in your new role as a mother, it’s 100% important that you address each contributing factor to your postpartum anxiety. Get rid it where possible. You need to care for yourself and refuse to allow anxiety to control your life. Your children and family need you to be healthy because we all know – mamma keeps things running. Take a deep breath, hang in there, and know that you’re not alone. We’re all in this together.
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