Having a newborn comes with an array of emotions, both good and bad. Especially for first time mothers, it is not uncommon to feel a little stressed and overwhelmed with all the new responsibilities your little one brings. Everything changes when your baby is born – and it can be hard to adapt for a while. Most women are familiar with post-natal depression (PND), having either suffered from it themselves, or knowing someone who has. PND is a depressive state that affects new mothers after the birth of their baby, and causes the usual depression symptoms. On the other end of the scale to PND is post-natal anxiety, a much less well-known disorder that can also affect new mothers after childbirth and throughout their babies first days/weeks/months of life.
What is post-natal anxiety? Post-natal anxiety is an anxiety disorder affecting women after pregnancy and childbirth. It mirrors general anxiety in its symptoms, but add in the fact that you’ve got a baby to look after while you battle the anxiety disorder, and it becomes a lot more difficult to manage! Some symptoms of post-natal anxiety include:
– overwhelming fear and worry
– unable to sleep/poor sleep
– racing heart and/or palpitations
– fear that “something bad will happen”
– irritability, restlessness and tension
– panic attacks
Women suffering from post-natal anxiety may find that they are constantly checking on their babies, even while they’re asleep. They may find it difficult to leave the house for fear of “something bad happening”. They may need to take control of everything in their power and become obsessive about things such as cleaning or washing, etc. It is very, very common for women suffering from post-natal anxiety to feel as though they are “going crazy” or “losing their mind”.
What causes post-natal anxiety? Similarly to PND, the causes of post-natal anxiety are not clearly defined. Women may be at higher risk if they have a family history or personal history of anxiety, and if they are nutritionally deficient. However, research has not given us a clear idea of why post-natal anxiety affects some women and not others.
How do I treat it? There are a range of options for post-natal anxiety. Pharmaceutical medications and natural remedies are available to treat anxiety, however these may not be ideal for prescription whilst breastfeeding. Counselling is a great option for post-natal anxiety, and you may even be able to find a therapist who specialises in post-natal conditions. Counsellors and psychologists will help you to challenge and change the thoughts that are causing the anxiety and panic, and create long-term strategies for prevention and management of your anxiety.
The key point to remember is this: if you, or someone you know, are struggling to cope with motherhood – you’re not alone. You may be experiencing symptoms beyond your control and it may be worth seeking professional advice. Of course, motherhood is hard and comes with its challenges, but if you are in a state of constant fear and overwhelm, you may be suffering from post-natal anxiety. Don’t try to battle it on your own – seek support of those closest to you and if needed, seek professional advice. Your baby doesn’t want you to suffer – do it for your little one!
By Danielle Archer