What you should know about postpartum anxiety

Many new parents feel at least a little bit anxious from time to time, but how do you know when these feelings of anxiety become cause for concern? Worrying about your baby’s health and your future together is very normal and something most parents go through. But dealing with anxiety that feels all-consuming is something different. It’s also common. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America found that approximately 10% of postpartum parents develop anxiety. So just what can you do about this now? It’s beneficial to know the signs of anxiety, risk factors for new parents, and what can help. 

Signs of anxiety

It’s important to know the signs of anxiety, which can include:

  • constant worry
  • feeling that something bad is going to happen
  • racing thoughts
  • sleep and appetite disturbances
  • inability to sit still
  • worrying so much that it is taking a toll on your personal or professional life
  • physical symptoms like dizziness, hot flashes, and nausea

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

It’s also important to understand some of the risk factors that can put new parents at higher risk of developing anxiety:

  • 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

Treatment can help

Anxiety is a treatable condition, so seeking out help from a mental health professional and getting treatment can help. And if you know you could be at a higher risk of anxiety postpartum, there are some important things you can do now. It can be very helpful to keep a close eye on your moods and your mental health. You should also speak honestly with your healthcare provider and/or mental health provider about how you’re feeling and managing as you move along your parenting journey. Further 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; seeking out support groups; and reaching out to a support system. Remember, if you experience postpartum anxiety you’re not alone, and it is possible to feel better — you deserve it.

  • 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. Helpguide.org, Sep 2016. Web.
  • “Anxiety Disorders.” NIH. US Department of Health and Human Services, Mar 2016. Web.

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