Understanding Postpartum Anxiety & Depression

Baby and teddy bear sad on a bridge

Having a baby creates many changes that can trigger emotional ups and downs–from excitement and joy to fear and anxiety. After the birth of a child, you may find that you have some feelings that you didn’t predict, like postpartum anxiety and postpartum depression. If you do, you may think about postpartum therapy to help you ease these feelings.

Many women experience some anxiety after giving birth. It’s perfectly natural to worry about the baby’s health and question if everything is going well. You may question if the baby is eating as it should, or whether you are keeping it safe from germs, or worry about household chores that you don’t have time to stay on top of. Most new moms experience the “baby blues” after giving childbirth. Generally, you might have mood swings, anxiety, and difficulty sleeping, which can begin within the first two to three days after delivery and last up to two weeks. 

But, some new moms experience a more severe long-term depression and anxiety. If your worries are irrational and constant and cause debilitating panic, you may be suffering from postpartum anxiety (PPA). Your panic can interfere with normal activities, like driving with the baby, or affect your ability to function effectively. Depression becomes an issue if it lasts longer than a few weeks and causes you to have feelings of hopelessness.  Postpartum depression (PPD) can affect your ability to care for your baby and perform other daily activities.

This article addresses these questions: What are the differences between PPA and PPD? Are the symptoms the same or different? And, most importantly, what can you do to help you handle PPA and PPD? How do you know if you need postpartum therapy?

Differences Between Postpartum Anxiety & Depression

Though there are common symptoms in both postpartum anxiety and depression and the two can be related, there are some differences that are significant. While postpartum depression carries feelings of sadness, irritability, tearfulness, appetite changes, and sleep disturbance, so can postpartum anxiety. Many women with PPA also experience obsessional thoughts like worrying, tension, and an inability to relax. Let’s look more closely at each.

What is Postpartum Anxiety?

Postpartum anxiety is a long-term prevalent feeling of panic and worry. You can experience anxiety that keeps you on edge most of the time or causes you to be unable to sleep. With postpartum anxiety you can find that you obsessively and irrationally worry all day and everyday about a myriad of things related to the baby or being a parent. Some of these feelings are normal and just part of a generalized anxiety after having a baby. But, if you find you are having these feelings for longer than a couple of weeks, it’s important to seek professional help. 

Symptoms of {ostpartum Anxiety

With postpartum anxiety, you can experience emotional, mental, and physical symptoms. Symptoms can include:

  • Constant or near-constant worry that does not subside
  • Feelings of dread or danger about things that could happen
  • Racing thoughts
  • Excessive worry about the baby’s health and safety
  • Insomnia or trouble going or staying asleep
  • Changes in heart rate and breathing, including elevated heartbeat, rapid breathing and/or chest pain, panic attacks
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Trembling and jitters

What is Postpartum Depression?

Many times postpartum depression is mistaken for the “baby blues” at first. However, postpartum depression symptoms are more intense and last longer. Many times it can affect your ability to care for your baby and handle daily tasks. Symptoms can start during pregnancy or even up to a year after birth. 

Symptoms of Postpartum Depression

Some of the signs and symptoms of postpartum depression are:

  • Depressed mood or severe mood swings
  • Excessive crying
  • Difficulty bonding with your baby
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Loss of appetite or increasing appetite
  • Overwhelming fatigue or loss of energy
  • Reduced interest in activities you used to enjoy
  • Intense irritability and anger
  • Fear that you aren’t a good mother
  • Hopelessness
  • Restlessness
  • Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide

What Causes Postpartum Anxiety & Depression?

The birth of a baby is fraught with opportunities to worry. Hormonal changes can certainly bring on mood swings and discomfort. But, why some women experience postpartum anxiety or depression is not definitively known. If you have family members who have experienced anxiety or if you have had anxiety prior to your pregnancy, you are more at risk. 

Postpartum depression and anxiety has been linked to chemical, social, and psychological changes that occur when having a baby. In addition to the intense fluctuations in estrogen and progesterone, the social and psychological changes that occur after childbirth create an increased risk of depression and anxiety.

There can be many reasons you experience postpartum depression or anxiety, such as:

  • Age at the time of pregnancy (the younger you are, the higher the chances)
  • Ambivalence about the pregnancy
  • Family history of mood disorders
  • Having a child with special needs or health problems
  • Having twins or triplets
  • Having a history of depression or premenstrual dysphoric disorder
  • Limited social support
  • Living alone
  • Marital conflict

How to Deal with Postpartum Anxiety & Depression

Postpartum anxiety and depression that isn’t treated can weaken your ability to bond with your baby and affect your entire family. Depending on your symptoms and how severe they are, there are different treatment options including anti-anxiety or antidepressant medications, psychotherapy, and participation in a support group. Here are some tips that can help you in coping when you bring home a newborn baby:

  • Ask for help
  • Be realistic about your expectations for yourself and your baby
  • Exercise
  • Follow a sensible diet
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine
  • Make time for your partner
  • Keep in touch with friends and family
  • Don’t isolate
  • Screen phone calls
  • Sleep or rest when your baby sleeps

Call Natalie Stainback for Postpartum Therapy

If you think you are experiencing postpartum anxiety and/or postpartum depression, don’t delay taking steps to address these feelings. Prolonging therapy can have a significant impact on your connection with your baby and family. Learn more about postpartum therapy with Natalie Stainback, a licensed therapist serving the Charlotte, NC area. Call  (704) 823-6009 or complete the contact form below.

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