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Postpartum Anxiety: The 411 on this Postpartum Mood Disorder

The postpartum period that occurs following the birth of your baby can be tough emotionally and physically. Taking care of a new baby 24 hours a day, seven days a week can be exhausting, overwhelming, and very stressful. From the lack of sleep (since you’ll be waking up every three to four hours to feed your newborn) to the physical healing that may take place, you may not be the happiest camper.

Your doctor or healthcare provider has probably informed you about the signs and symptoms of postpartum depression, which affects between 10 to 15 percent of women from a month to a year following delivery. Postpartum depression falls into the category of postpartum mood disorders.

There are six postpartum mood disorders in total:

  1. Postpartum depression
  2. 2. Postpartum anxiety disorder
  3. Postpartum bipolar disorder
  4. Postpartum psychosis
  5. Postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  6. Postpartum posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Postpartum mood disorders occur in more than 25 to 50 percent of new mothers. They are often seen within the first three months after delivery. A majority of these women suffer alone, and they’re never diagnosed.

The 411 on Postpartum Anxiety

Postpartum anxiety is one of the lesser known postpartum mood disorders. There are no statistics that I could find for postpartum anxiety, but there are many undiagnosed cases of this anxiety. And postpartum anxiety can be just as debilitating as postpartum depression. (You can read one mother’s personal journey with postpartum anxiety in a previous post: Postpartum Anxiety – A Mother’s Journey by Christa Connerat.)

When you have postpartum anxiety, you will feel very anxious. Women with postpartum anxiety have a lot of “what if” thoughts. They obsess and they can’t stop worrying. Some can’t bear to be parted from their baby from one second. They are too afraid of something terrible that could happen.

This postpartum mood disorder is sometimes called Postpartum Anxiety and/or Panic Disorder. Symptoms include the following:

  • Feeling tense and worrying a lot
  • Shortness of breath, or the sensation that you’re choking
  • Hot or cold flashes
  • Tingling hands and feet
  • Experiencing chest pain
  • Being restless and agitated
  • Insomnia
  • The fear that you’re going crazy
  • Anger and rage
  • Intense fear about your baby’s health, or fear of being alone
  • Dizziness and hyperventilating
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea

The symptoms of postpartum anxiety can occur within days of delivery, and they often gradually disappear within your baby’s first year.

Postpartum Anxiety: How to Cope

Postpartum anxiety is typically treated with therapy, medication, and stress reduction techniques.

Because postpartum anxiety and the other postpartum mood disorders can impair your ability to interact and care for your baby, you will want to talk to your doctor about your symptoms. You don’t have to suffer through postpartum anxiety alone.

It’s common for new mothers to experience postpartum blues, also known as “baby blues.” Up to 80 percent of postpartum women will have baby blues – a condition that’s defined by mild mood swings, anxiety, decreased concentration, crying spells, and insomnia. Postpartum blues are mild, and symptoms tend to be the worse on the fifth day after pregnancy. If you have postpartum blues, your symptoms will completely disappear within two weeks.

You should discuss any emotional issues that last longer than this to your healthcare provider.

In the meanwhile, when you have a moment to yourself, rest and soak in warm bath. You may consider treating yourself to a professional massage or indulge in acupuncture. Hire a babysitter, if you need to.

Good luck!

About the author: DP Nguyen is founder and editor of Hip Chick’s Guide to PMS, Pregnancy and Babies. She’s an expert pregnancy and women’s health blogger. She is NOT a medical doctor and does NOT offer medical advice. Connect with her on Google+, Twitter and Facebook.

{ 5 comments… add one }
  • Christa White September 9, 2011, 2:10 pm

    Hi, i don’t know if this qualifies as postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety or what, but i feel sick to my stomach, my heart races, I feel like i am choking, and i feel like crying when I think about leaving my 5 month old baby at home and leaving her for even a minute, or getting her shots, knowing it will hurt her and i can’t protect her. And as for when I think about going back to work and having her spend the day at daycare or her going off to school, even though that won’t be for awhile, but i still feel helpless and sad. Can you help me?

    • DP Nguyen September 9, 2011, 2:13 pm

      Wow, that sounds very much like postpartum anxiety! You may want to go see a doctor to get some medication to help you cope in the meanwhile? Exercising may also help you. Or just to go see a counselor to help you out. Fortunately, these feelings typically resolve themselves eventually. But you shouldn’t go on feeling like that! Definitely go see a doctor or therapist to see if they can help you! But yeah, I think you have postpartum anxiety!

  • ramona March 25, 2011, 4:52 am

    thanks for sharing!!! i didnt know more than the depression and i totally had the anxiety one! who knew?!?!

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