I’m Not Depressed, I’m Afraid: Postpartum Anxiety
Postpartum depression is something that we all tend to hear a lot about, especially if you’ve taken any birthing classes. You and your partner are often aware of it, but what about postpartum anxiety? This is something that is overlooked in our society.
Postpartum Depression vs. Postpartum Anxiety
For my first postpartum OB check and several of my infant checks, I received a questionnaire accessing PPD, the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale. It asks if you’ve thought of harming yourself, if you’ve been unhappy, sad, miserable, blaming yourself and crying for no specific reason, to all of which I answered “no, never.” If you answer “yes” to the two questions that ask about being scared and anxious for no reason, the ones relative to anxiety, the scale will determine that you are not depressed and your doctor will most likely not reach out to help with your postpartum anxiety. Well, that’s because anxiety and depression are two different boats new mothers can be in.
With postpartum depression, you may be feeling overwhelmed, have self-doubt, not feeling a bond with your baby, feel sad, guilty, frustrated, empty, disconnected, hopeless, not sleeping or eating, have thoughts of suicide. However, with postpartum anxiety you often don’t have these dark and sad emotions come over you, instead you are bombarded with worry that something horrible will happen and fear becomes the main emotion controlling your mind. Here are some feelings you may have with postpartum anxiety.
How to Identify Postpartum Anxiety
1. Constant Worry
You are constantly worried that something bad will happen.
Your baby is napping longer than usual, “Is he breathing?”
Your husband typically gets home at 5:00 and it’s 5:15, “Did he get in an accident?”
These fleeting questions are normal. But with postpartum anxiety, these questions soon become detailed thought patterns. Your heart starts racing with each and every single worry, and your mind digs deeper into disturbing “what ifs” that could take your family away from you.
2. Disturbing Deadly Thoughts
You have disturbing thoughts about anything and everything. The coins in the piggy bank that your baby can choke on, the mail sitting on the counter that your baby can get cut with, the awning that may collapse and crush bones, the cement patio that your baby can get a concussion on; ordinary objects turn into horrific death traps in your mind.
3. The Media Becomes a Trigger
The news stories you find are more disturbing than ever, and your reactions are disproportionate. A school shooting? “My child will never go to school.” A murder at the local grocery store? “My child is never going grocery shopping with me.” Even shows you once used to love like Chicago PD will send you into a feeling of dread as you begin to associate your family with the characters touched by death. You constantly feel like something terrible is going to happen.
4. Physical Symptoms
You may even have physical symptoms like stomach cramps or headaches, or you may get a panic attack in the middle of the night and not know how to control your muscle spasms.
Postpartum Anxiety is Real and Help is on the Way
Please seek out help from your doctor. Sure it sounds cliche, but there are so many options you can go over and having someone to talk to makes it a lot easier. It may be medication, it may be psychiatric support, it may just be as simple as taking a vacation to relax and take back control of your mind. Our minds are so much more powerful than we know and instead of allowing fear and anxiety to take control, you need to get yourself to a point where you’re able to take control with strength, and that may take time but please reach out to your significant other and doctor sooner than later. You’ve got this, mama!