Strategies for managing postpartum anxiety

The postpartum period can be an anxiety-provoking time. Your lifestyle may be changing significantly if you’re a first-time mom, and for anyone adding another member to their family, it’s hard to know how your existing family dynamic will shift.

Signs of anxiety

Most new parents feel at least a little bit anxious at times, but how do you know when these feelings of anxiety are cause for concern? If you have a history of anxiety and are currently pregnant, it’s a good idea to talk to your healthcare provider about your mental health. And if you’ve never experienced anxiety, there are still a few signs to look out for, including:

  • Constant worry
  • Feeling that something bad is going to happen
  • Racing thoughts
  • Disturbances of sleep and appetite
  • Inability to sit still
  • Physical symptoms like dizziness, hot flashes, and nausea
  • Worrying so much that it is taking a toll on your personal or professional life

Signs of a more serious anxiety disorder can manifest physically as well, with symptoms including muscle tension, heart palpitations, dizziness, hot flashes, or nausea.

Risk factors for postpartum anxiety

There’s a difference between worrying about your baby’s health and your future together, and feeling that that worry is all-consuming. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America found that approximately 10% of postpartum parents develop anxiety. There are a handful of signs that put new parents at higher risk of developing anxiety, including:

  • Previous diagnosis of an anxiety disorder
  • Anxiety during most recent or past pregnancy
  • Previous pregnancy loss or fertility struggles
  • Pregnancy complications
  • Stress in personal or professional life

The impact of anxiety on the postpartum period

Anxiety and depression are both treatable conditions, so getting treatment can help. Knowing that a history of anxiety puts you at a higher risk for mood disorders after pregnancy isn’t a guarantee that you’ll experience either one, but it’s a signal to keep a close eye on your moods and your mental health, and to stay in touch with your healthcare provider and mental health provider as you move along your parenting journey.

Safety measures that can be taken if you have a history of anxiety include sticking to established treatment routines, like regularly adhering to medication regimens, and keeping up with talk-therapy appointments; tracking moods; sticking to healthy eating and regular sleep routines (tracking can help with this too); seeking out support groups; and reaching out to a support system.

Postpartum anxiety means an increased risk of postpartum depression. There’s no known way to prevent postpartum depression, so the best way to use this knowledge is to keep a careful eye on your mental health during all parts of your parenting journey, and to stay in close touch with your healthcare provider and other members of your healthcare team.

  • Mayo Clinic Staff. “Coping and support.” MayoClinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, Sep 25 2014. Web.
  • Mayo Clinic Staff. “Treatments and Drugs.” MayoClinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, Sep 25 2014. Web.
  • Melinda Smith, Lawrence Robinson, Jeanne Segal. “Anxiety Disorders and Anxiety Attacks.” HelpGuide., Sep 2016. Web.
  • “Anxiety Disorders.” NIH. US Department of Health and Human Services, Mar 2016. Web.
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