Since my last post, I had to make the decision to take a break. Because honestly…. postpartum anxiety hit me pretty hard. While it is difficult to talk about so publicly I know the more we openly discuss these issues the more we can normalize the treatment of them too.
Most of us are cognizant of postpartum depression (PPD). While PPD certainly deserves awareness and treatment it doesn’t always catch moms who suffer with postpartum anxiety. In fact, I passed my PPD screening at my follow up appointment after birth with flying colors without realizing I still wasn’t “okay”. Perhaps, it is because we have so many things to worry about as new moms or maybe it’s because anxiety takes on many different forms. Either way, my goal with sharing my story is that it can help at least one other mom who may be suffering and know she is not alone.
Signs and Symptoms of Postpartum Anxiety:
- Constant worry. This initially started out about every little thing surrounding my daughter but grew into almost every faucet of my daily life.
- Racing thoughts. My brain felt like it was always going a million miles per hour and nothing could help slow down all of my thoughts.
- Urge to be doing something, all the time. I couldn’t sit still. I needed something to do. Regardless if it was productive or not, I needed to feel busy.
- Poor sleep. It was difficult for me to fall asleep and I would quickly awaken to the slightest noise or movement.
- Feeling of dread or something bad might happen.
- Lack of appetite. Despite breastfeeding, I rarely had an appetite or desire to eat. I dropped a significant amount of weight after having my daughter – which I will discuss on another post!
- Physical symptoms might include fatigue, feeling like your heart is racing, hyperventilation, sweating, nausea, vomiting, and shakiness
Risk Factors for Postpartum Anxiety:
- Previous history of anxiety
- Family history of anxiety
- Previous history of an eating disorder
- May be related to hormone fluctuation
- Previous pregnancy loss or death of an infant
- Past history of intense mood related symptoms with your period
Treatment of Postpartum Anxiety:
Treatment options vary and may work better for others. Some moms might do fine with at home treatment options others may benefit from medication or working with a professional. It is important to discuss your symptoms with your doctor to find the right solution for you.
- Cognitive behavior therapy
- Acceptance and commitment therapy
- Relaxation techniques
If you need immediate help or need someone to talk to the National Helpline for Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration are available to talk 24/7 every day of the year for free.
Coping with my Anxiety:
I will be the first to admit that I did not do a great job with coping with my anxiety. Initially, I brushed a lot of my symptoms to the difficult transition to motherhood. I thought worrying was ‘normal’. It wasn’t until I was back at work and my friend suggested to me that I might be struggling with anxiety. It took someone else from the outside to see what I wasn’t.
I listened to podcasts about anxiety to try and learn coping skills. I talked with my family and another close friend who suffered from anxiety. While these made me feel better they didn’t change my anxiety. I decided at 10 months postpartum it was time to start talking to my OBGYN. She reassured me about how I was feeling and how often she hears about it from moms. She did give me some suggestions and prescribed me an anti-anxiety medication that was breastfeeding safe. I took up running about five days a week which was a great outlet for my excess energy. One of the biggest helps was prioritizing what was most important and figuring out what I could take off my plate. Setting personal boundaries wasn’t easy but a huge development in managing my anxiety.
While I still live with anxiety I have gotten to a point that I feel is more manageable. Certainly, what I may have experienced can be different for you including how I coped with my anxiety. If you feel that you may struggling with anxiety, speaking up and getting professional help is the first step to feeling well. Even if you don’t struggle with anxiety personally, you may be able to help others who are and make a difference in their lives.