Postpartum anxiety is something I’ve mentioned in the past but never written a full blog post so here goes…
Have you guys seen The Big Sick? Ray Romano’s daughter is in a coma for much of the movie and he has a quote that just stuck out to me.
He says, “Being a parent is a nightmare. Loving someone this much sucks.”
It just kind of summed up the anxiety I had been feeling at the time, which was on a plane home from Munich.
Nick and I went to Germany for a work trip of his in October and the whole time I worried about our safety. The Las Vegas shooting coincidentally happened our first night away. I hated being on the same flight as him too, because all I could think about was what would happen to Tommy if it went down.
I’ve wondered if I have postpartum anxiety for a while now as I wouldn’t characterize myself as an anxious person pre-Tommy. Or did I just became a mom and worry is the new normal? On top of that, this has been an insane year with terrorism becoming more frequent and closer to home.
So, I decided to take a look at what postpartum anxiety is exactly since it happens in about 10% of moms.
While any new mom can develop postpartum anxiety, those who are especially vulnerable include women with a personal or family history of anxiety or previous experience with depression, certain symptoms of PMS (such as feeling weepy or agitated), eating disorders, or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
I have a family history of anxiety, I get serious PMS, I didn’t have an eating disorder but had my moments when I was younger… I am the perfect candidate and while I thought I had it, now I’m not so sure.
The symptoms of anxiety during pregnancy or postpartum might include:
- Constant worry.
- Feeling that something bad is going to happen.
- Racing thoughts.
- Disturbances of sleep and appetite.
- Inability to sit still.
- Physical symptoms like dizziness, hot flashes, and nausea.
With postpartum anxiety, a mom may have constant worries about the baby’s health and development, her ability to be a good parent, and how she’s going to balance work and home or care for multiple children. She may become restless and moody, or experience physical symptoms like a rapid heartbeat, dizziness, nausea, or insomnia.
More than 11% of mothers fell victim to postpartum anxiety disorders while roughly 6% developed postpartum depressive disorders.
“If you’re anxious and it’s getting in the way of your life, you may begin to feel depressed about that and vice versa.”
The same is true if your anxiety isn’t tied to any particular threat, if it leads you to dread everyday situations (like driving with baby), if panic attacks come out of the blue, or if it interferes with your ability to function (because you check on him throughout the night).
“Anxiety is a problem when it overshoots reality.”
Tell your ob-gyn or pediatrician how you’re feeling and ask for a referral to a psychologist who specializes in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
An expert can teach you techniques to help you relax, such as meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, and mindfulness training. Done before bedtime, they can set you up for a good night’s sleep (which can in turn ease anxiety). Getting moving can also relieve anxiety by helping you feel more empowered, Howard says. Six weeks of resistance training or aerobic exercise led to a remission rate of 60 percent and 40 percent, respectively, among women ages 18 to 37 with generalized anxiety disorder, a study done by The University of Georgia finds.
Mindfulness helps people learn how to have a thought, accept it and turn their attention elsewhere, and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) allows patients to become part of the problem-solving process, teaching them how to challenge over-generalized thoughts and adjust their moods.
So for me, it started before the baby was born. I was constantly in a state of worry that something was going to happen to Tommy before his due date. Once he was born, like other moms, I was petrified of SIDS. Even writing this post, I had to go look at Tommy to make sure he was OK.
The first time I drove with him on the highway, I drove well below the speed limit and wanted to cry. It sounds so odd, I know. It started to rain and I wanted to pull over and just cry because I was so scared we were going to crash.
Like 80% of new moms, I had the baby blues about 7-10 days postpartum. I mourned my past life of having the freedom to go where I wanted, when I wanted and for extended periods of time but then I moved forward and loved my new role.
Even moving forward though, I’m constantly reluctant to talk about the future like when Tommy is in High School for fear I’m going to jinx us or something. I’m paranoid that something will happen to me and I’ll leave him without a mom at a young age… The thought of flying is so unnerving these days I avoid it as much as possible.
I wake up in the middle of the night sometimes and I can’t fall back asleep because I worry about all the bad things that could happen, our house catching on fire, how I’d get out and if there was an intruder what I would do.
Just last week, I took a wrong turn and didn’t know what neighborhood I was in. I suddenly felt like I put us in danger because Nick told me it was the heaviest gang area of Boston (thanks Nick) and my heart was just racing and I felt ill.
We walk around Boston and all I think is “What would I do if a car started to come right at us or if someone had a gun, how I would protect Tommy?”
These are just a few of my anxious thought, things I have zero control over and likely will never happen but nevertheless I worry passionately.
Is this normal?
On Instagram yesterday, a lot of you told me you felt the same way which made me think, am I just a parent? Is this the new normal and we are all in this “nightmare” together of “loving someone so much it hurts” and that we would do anything to keep them safe?
I really don’t have an answer but quite a few of you asked me to share my postpartum anxiety story, so here it is. My plan is to just use exercise for now to manage but I’m not above asking for help.
Feel free to share your own concerns and experiences below or tell me that I am in fact crazy.
I was diagnosed with postpartum anxiety and depression when my son was 6 weeks old . I luckily was already seeing a therapist due to otherorxia and knowing my Type A Personality ( and slight anxiety) would put me at risk. But even when the diagnosis came I was blown away. My only symptoms were feeling overwhelmed , had issues falling asleep ( which I attributed to all new mom struggles after being up with a new baby all hours of the night ) but there were other signs . I was always worried I’d dropped Sully, or just general concern for his well being and what was best for him . So does this help you? Maybe not but what it does it help you talk to a professional and have Them diagnose you. I can talk to all my mom friends and each one of us have experienced something similar but because they chalked it up to being ‘normal’ adjustment to a new baby they pushed it aside and salt with it in their own way. If you can find a way to Overcome your worries on your own through whatever keeps you grounded awesome but if it means even one time reaching out and talking to someone to work through it that’s great too! I just hope we as Mom’s stop being martyrs and keeping this bottled up. Every emotion and feeling is real and deserves to be validated . It’s okay to have post partum anxiety but to also take comfort knowing more moms then you think probably are going through the same situation they just never talked about it. Do whatever you think will help you overcome these fears but be proud of yourself for being so self aware . And know not all mental issues are black and white and you can fit into some check boxes and not the others . Sending you love xo
Loved reading this Fiona, thank you for sharing. I especially loved your last list about mental health issues and checking all the boxes -- you are totally right and I never thought of it that way. I guess maybe I should talk to someone.
I have a two year old and everything your wrote about being anxious about or fearing is the exact same as I feel! I have also wondered if it’s just part of being a mom so I need to get used to it or if it’s something more, I don’t have an answer:/
I don’t know where the line is at new mom anxiety and PPA. I think the world can be a scary place. Each time I get a new sitter I am so anxious. If she sleeps through the night I don’t cos I check her so many times…and she’s one. I feel guilty I don’t spend enough quality time with her, I feel guilty for working and on and on. No wonder we are messes! It’s a cliche but I think a lot has to do with so many of us not having a village. It’s all on us. Plus we work, try to maintain and marriage, oh and try to take care of ourselves too. It’s just damn hard! I hope it gets easier!
So true! So many of us do not have villages and are lucky to have one relative 2 hours away!
Omg I’ve felt the same way!!! My son is almost 8mos old and I too have sudden anxious thoughts and feelings that I can’t get over. I have never had issues with anxiety in my life. I think a lot of Hess thoughts are normal (especially if you’re still breastfeeding and all the hormones that come with that) but I feel like it’s not talked about often. Thank you for hearing your story. You’re definitely not alone
I have a 5 yr old daughter and a son who’s a year and a half. I worry about them so much it’s debilitating sometimes. I make up scenarios in my head that will probably never happen and I make myself sick over it. I worry about things that could potentially happen 10 years from now. It’s ridiculous and I wish I could stop but I can’t. Just like the movie says, loving someone this much sucks. I joke with my husband that if I knew I’d be this worried over our kids I would’ve never had children. It’s crippling, especially how scary the world is these days. I was an anxious person before kids, particularly about weather (so weird), like when it’s windy I get MAJOR anxiety like my car is gonna tip over or my house is gonna blow over. So yeah. It sucks and unfortunately I think it’s a new normal.
hello i acutally had and have such anxiety which is connected to persons I love, in past when I was a kid I loved my mom very much- I still love her but she is on the other side now, and I was afraid that something happen to her and what will be then and i had such moments and thoughts but i was trying to keep them away, then i met new bf that I really fall in love and when was holidays and didnt see him at all also had such feelings that was afraid if someting not happen bad to him, then now i have bf since few years and also am scared especially as he is older then me and he also was diagnosed with colon cancer and since then i was worrying and scared especailly that i moved to him one year ago to usa and its not mine country , its new to me. To feel less anxious i started praying -- and to heal him thru my prayer- I started since january 1st- this year- coz he had that cancer- and i wanted that he healed/ treated from it- I prayed on beads novenna To Queen of holy Rosary of Pompeii- and its 54 days novenna 3 whole beeds a day -- it s about 150 Hail Mother a day, first 27 days is that i pray for that intnesion that it come true and another 27 I pray with thought that I already received it and this year I did few of those novennas already. Did they work? I was more calm thru healing and treating of my bf- he was in boston hosppital- had part of colon removed and after operetion he had big dehydreation and he had to go to B&WH for another 2 weeks, and i prayed then and belived he will be healed when i end prayer, and indeed after i ended prayer few days before he was relesed from hospital and few days later gaind strength, hten i continued praying as he was going thru chemotherapy- and one time he got blood infection and dr said its dangerous that ppl can die from it- that scared me and him- but i prayed too and he got for 2 days to hispital to get Ivis antibiotics and he got to normal again- they treat it and i prayed novenna -- then i prayed still even now as he will have soon stoma reversion and i little afraid, but 2 weeks ago he had ct scan and he is cancer free now so I think novenna works 🙂
BTW your Son Tommy is very cute and i like when he say on snapchat hi guys lol
greetings from Boston area
I think all parents have those thoughts to a certain degree. I have definitely had a lot of similar thoughts, but it sounds like not to the degree that you have. If you find that your constant worry and anxiety is controlling your thoughts obsessively, you might want to talk to someone about it. I think it is difficult though because the times we live in are so strange and so many horrible things are going on. Usually i can find a way to shut it down in my brain and just live in the present and not think about bad things all the time. I think it just depends on how much it’s actually controlling your life. I hope that helps from a fellow parent of a toddler!!
Did you get any worse symptoms when you weaned Tommy. I had severe anxiety after weaning my daughter at 18 months and I found out it’s common then because the hormone changes.
I could have written this post myself 3 years ago. After having my first little girl, I was soooo worried about anything and everything. I worried about my future, something happening to me, I’d cry at the drop of a hat because of the fears that ran through my mind! Even worse I’d lay awake at night worried about her. We used to live 1 mile near the ocean and I’d stay awake at night and leave the news on in case there was something about a tsunami that would hit our shoreline!
It started to dwindle down when she was about 20 months old. Then I got pregnant again 6 months later. I can safely say that this time around NONE of those things happened. The fears are very real and consuming! You’re not alone and they will go away… If you ever need someone to vent to, please find me!!
Everyone’s experience with postpartum anxiety is different. Mine was pretty obvious to me, because it severely impacted my life and ability to live my day in and day out. It was difficult for me to even work, and probably lost about 20 pounds in a matter of a few months, which i didn’t have to lose to begin with. I would physically be hungry, but i could not get myself together enough to even eat. And when i did, I’d lose my appetite half way through a meal because i was worrying so much. Granted, not everyone experiences PPA to this extent. The point to drive home is, if it gets in the way of living your day to day life or if the worry and anxiety distract you from daily activities that otherwise you’d have no problem focusing on, there might be something there. If you find yourself constantly worrying all day, even when you know he’s safe (ex worrying about tommy excessively even when he’s clearly safe, playing in the other room, or even right next to you), maybe you need to seek some help. Going to therapy and talking about my worries really helped me. Now, almost 2 years after my son was born, i handle anxieties a million times better. Do i ever feel anxious anymore? Of course. But now i know how to talk myself off a ledge. Hope this helps!!!
My son is now 2 and I could have written this post. For me, the difference between the usual partental worries and something deeper like anxiety is that with anxiety your brain will always be scanning for something to be worried about. When I was at my worst, I couldn’t even enjoy happy moments because my brain would find something to worry about—little things like not wanting to put candles on his birthday cake in case he caught fire, to staying up all night checking his breathing after having a lovely family day out. For me, the worries seemed rational—fire near my baby, he has had breathing issues etc—but they aren’t really rational to another person.
I urge you to talk with a therapist, even a few sessions could help you sort out these thoughts and keep them from feeling so paralysing. You don’t need a clinical diagnosis to benefit. Thank you for being so open—we all become stronger when we are honest about the difficult things.
Hi Sarah- I legit never comment but I love your blog and I have suffered a bit with this so hear goes-- I had pretty bad post-partum anxiety that I luckily got diagnosed with quickly (like 4-6 weeks post partum) and got on some low dose medication. In hindsight, I probably had pregnancy (pre partum?) anxiety as well. I was basically a wreck, including most of the things you mentioned- both before and after giving birth. It paralyzed me to the point of feeling like there was no way I could be a mother with all these things we are up against! (When I say “these things” I mean really far out things, like SIDS, baby freezing to death bc I wouldn’t know what type of clothes to put her in, etc) All that said, once I went on medication, my LIFE CHANGED- like complete 180. I kept on saying that I “felt like a teenager again” or I just “felt like the me I used to be.” I still get worried now but I am able to be worried but not let it take over my life. ie: I worry about a car crash but can worry about it for a minute and move on. Hope that is helpful! I just want anyone to know that science is amazing, meds are nothing to be ashamed of and can really be a gift that you give to yourself and your family. xoxoxo good luck!
So helpful Emily! Thank you for sharing and glad you are feeling better!
Mary McDuffie says
Hi Sarah. I think you being worried for your child is just normal. But don’t worry too much. Just think positive things while you are away from him. Also make sure that you left him with someone you trust to avoid danger. My cousin who is also a new mom worries a lot too like you.
Being way too anxious is dangerous. Avoid that if you can. I am having anxiety attacks every now and then but I have gradually learned to control it. There are many ways on how to calm yourself when you are anxious. Each person has a different way of coping and never stop until you have found what’s most effective for you.
I have also came across this site https://www.zapmystress.com/panic-attacks/panic-away/ and it also helped me cope with anxiety and panic attack. I hope you can also find it helpful. Let me know what you think after checking it out.