What to Expect with Postpartum Anxiety and What is It?
Learn more about what is postpartum anxiety and the signs of anxiety.
For the longest time I had no idea I dealt with Anxiety. I just thought my thinking was normal and that everyone thought like me. Which is not such a bad thing, until it reaches the point of interfering with your daily activities.
Growing up I remember a handful of times that anxiety got the better of me, but after becoming a mom, my anxiety had increased to a point that I needed help.
Disclaimer: I am by no means an expert at this. I only share my experiences, what I’ve learned, and what I’ve researched to inform. Please don’t take it as medical advice. Ask your doctor if you need help or have any questions.
About 10% of postpartum women develop anxiety.
Postpartum anxiety is an anxiety that develops or heightens during pregnancy or postpartum.
Knowing what anxiety is, and what it looks like, can help in getting the proper treatment.
The Signs of Postpartum Anxiety (or even just anxiety):
- Constant worry, or the inability to calm irrational or unnatural thoughts
- Feeling that something bad is going to happen, but sometimes for no reason at all
- Racing thoughts
- Disturbances of sleep and appetite
- Inability to sit still
- Physical symptoms like dizziness, hot flashes, raised heart rate, and nausea
What to Expect with Postpartum Anxiety
Every anxiety story is going to be different. I’m going to share my thoughts and what I experienced, and maybe it can bring some light to your situation.
Like I mentioned earlier, my anxiety started around the time I started puberty. (I figured this out with the help of my therapist) My mother was a great therapist for me at that time. She did a great job of letting me talk through my anxieties and calming my worries. But, when I became a mom, my anxiety got to a point that I struggled to function.
I had a few anxieties with my pregnancy, but nothing crazy. It was mostly thoughts of
Will I be a good mom?
Am I ready to be a mom?
Why did I get pregnant so soon?
What the heck am I doing?
I think a lot of first time moms have these thoughts, right?
It wasn’t until after I had my baby that I started feeling overwhelmed by my feelings. At first I didn’t know what it was, and it took me a year to seek out help. Which, let me just say, everyone should get a therapist. And if you just think you could be struggling with anxiety, seek help.
My anxiety comes from a lot of places, with my postpartum anxiety it’s the hormones coupled with my previous anxiety. However, my daughter, and also my first child, was extremely colicky, which only grew my anxiety.
I was unable to calm my worries and thoughts. I couldn’t help but think of my past life, and how different my life would be. What have I done kept going around and around in my mind to the point where it ate me up inside.
Racing Thoughts. I was unable to calm my thoughts and worries, but I also struggled with coming up with a solution to my daughter being colicky. I had to figure it out and all day my mind raced to find that solution, no matter how much it consumed me, or how unnatural my thoughts were.
Panic attacks. Because my daughter was colicky, I didn’t want to be around her, so I had a panic attack every time my husband left the house. I didn’t know, at the time, that I was having a panic attack, so I didn’t know what to do with it.
I couldn’t sleep. I would cry myself to sleep every night with worry about the next day. I couldn’t sleep because I didn’t want the next day to come.
I couldn’t eat. I lost a lot of weight in the first year of my daughter’s life. Some of this was from my depression as well. But when you constantly worry, you often feel constantly nauseated, so I didn’t want to eat.
Angry. I was angry, most of the time. When I’m feeling anxious or on edge, I get frustrated, and often lash out.
I didn’t like my daughter for the first year of her life. I know now that it wasn’t her, but the anxiety I got when she was around. I know now to blame and fight the anxiety, instead of my children.
Tips if You’re Struggling with Postpartum Anxiety
I have read the signs and symptoms of anxiety a bazillion times. But I could not admit to myself that it was something I struggled with. I needed someone to tell me what was going on. I got anxiety about having anxiety.
It wasn’t until I went to a therapist and she asked me “Do you know that you struggle with underlining anxiety?”
I didn’t, but I do now!
Before that, I couldn’t validate it, and therefore it didn’t exist.
If you just think you have a hint of anxiety, talk to someone. There is nothing wrong in talking about it.
Pretending that it doesn’t exist, isn’t the best solution. Once I could grasp the concept of what I was struggling with, I was able to work on it. Which brings me to my next point…
Knowing your anxiety
Learning about your anxiety is one of the best things you can do for it because then you know what you’ve been dealt, and you can fight back.
Don’t let anxiety consume your life.
Learn what triggers your anxiety, what it stems from, and what helps calm you down.
Knowledge is power. The more you know, the more you can help it.
It can also be depression
Anxiety and depression can often go hand in hand, so you could also be struggling with depression. When I’m feeling anxious, once I come down, I get depressed. When I’m feeling depressed, it’s easier for me to feel anxious.
Again, talk to someone and talk to your doctor.
Related: Everything you need to know about Postpartum Depression
Setting up Strategies
Once you know your anxiety it becomes easier to create strategies in your life that help you cope and overcome your anxiety. You don’t have to let anxiety rule your life.
It’s not enough to know it, you have to act and do something about it. Here are some strategies I use in my life to stay sane as a mom.
Postpartum anxiety is temporary…this too shall pass. It doesn’t make it any easier, but it certainly helps. I still have anxiety with my kids, but the postpartum anxiety is always way worse. It gets better. I promise, you will feel like yourself again.
So therapy really does do wonders. Everyone should do therapy. I love therapy. I have learned so much about myself. Being self-aware helps you to strengthen your weaknesses, know your limits, and improve your life!
They say finding a therapist is like finding your girlfriend/boyfriend, so don’t stop looking if you can’t find the one you like. One of the best resources for finding therapy is at Psychology Today. They can help you find a therapist in your area that takes your insurance.
Prayer is powerful. I don’t know where I’d be without the help of my Savior. Sometimes prayer seems to be the only thing that calms me down.
If you are experiencing these signs, or you feel like you are suffering from anxiety, talk to your doctor. Even if you aren’t sure. You are not alone. You can get help! It is so easy to down play your anxiety and convince yourself that you are fine. But learning to channel your anxiety and finding ways to cope, can help you live a better more positive and happy life.
Related: How to Parent as an Anxious Mom and Stay Sane
Related: Anxiety Affirmations for when Anxiety Strikes
Related: What is Postpartum Depression?
What is fascinating about chronic stress and anxiety, is that one can actually build new neurological pathways in the higher brain rather than the lower brain (where stress patterns reside). These pathways can be conditioned to sustain a mindset of calm and resilience thereby supplanting earlier habits of chronic stress. When I used to suffer from chronic stress and panic attacks I tried many different strategies to try and calm my symptoms, but eventually found this one was the most effective and completely healed my chronic anxiety long term.
I have been reading more about this lately! And I completely agree! We really can train our minds to do so much!
Can you recommend some reading material to learn how to do this?
Niki, this is a great question. Let me gather some things and get back to you. Maybe I could write a post about it because I bet others are wondering too! Or, maybe Kathleen could also provide some information.
Charlie recently posted…How Losing Everything Was the Best Thing to Happen to Me
Hi Niki! People are just starting to understand the neurological underpinnings of chronic stress as an unconscious cycle in the brain. I have actually designed a very successful two month program where my clients are actually building new neurological pathways that are conditioned for a long term mindset of calm and resilience. I definitely have more information that I would be more than happy to share, just let me know. Warmly, Kathleen
Thank you Kathleen for the info!
Of course anytime!
Can difficulties with breathing be a symptom of another illness?
Yes, difficulty breathing can definitely be a symptoms of something else. It’s usually when the breathing is combined with the other symptoms.