What exactly is postpartum anxiety?
Anxiety is a mental health problem that causes symptoms such as anxious thoughts, tense feelings, and physical signs such as blood pressure increases. High anxiety even during the postpartum period, which follows childbirth, is referred to as postpartum anxiety. This form of anxiety can grow so intense that it impairs a person’s ability to operate.
Anxiety disorders induce excessive anxiety for at least 6 months.
However, some studies believe that someone may develop postpartum anxiety if they experience symptoms for at least a month. Although researchers know a lot more about postpartum depression than postpartum anxiety, a 2021 report states that 11-21% of women in the United States develop an anxiety disorder during the perinatal (during pregnancy) and postpartum era. According to one 2018 study, 75% of women experiencing postpartum anxiety also had signs of depression.
What Are the Symptoms of Postpartum Anxiety?
Anxiety can cause physical as well as emotional problems. It is your body’s reaction to perceived dangers and threats, such as worrying about your baby’s health and safety or whether you are properly caring for them. Many new parents report postpartum anxiety as “going insane” or being unable to regulate their racing thoughts, whether sensible or not.
Postpartum anxiety physical symptoms include:
- Inadequate sleep
- Appetite loss
- Having difficulty sitting still
- nauseousness or stomach pain
- Palpitations or an increase in heart rate
- Feeling out of breath or unable to breathe
- Muscle tenseness
You may experience the following emotions:
- Unable to unwind.
- a sense of impending disaster
- Forgetful, distracted, or unable to concentrate.
- Concerned or fearful
- Obsessed with things that are unlikely to happen.
What Are Some Causes of Postpartum Anxiety?
There are various causes of postpartum anxiety, rather than a single cause or incident. Doctors believe that one of the most important aspects is the hormonal changes that your body undergoes after giving birth. Hormone levels drop dramatically after delivery. This can affect your mood and cause you to overreact to stressful situations.
Sleep is essential, and you are not getting enough of it when caring for a newborn. Sleep deprivation might also make you more susceptible to stressful situations.
Some of these experiences, such as nursing, a difficult pregnancy or delivery, or milestones in your baby’s growth and development, may be crucial aspects of new parenting.
Factors of danger. Some people are more prone to developing postpartum anxiety than others. You are more likely to develop it if you have a positive answer to these questions:
- Is there a family history of anxiety?
- Have you ever suffered from anxiety or depression?
- Have you had a tough pregnancy or birth?
- Have you ever lost a kid or suffered a miscarriage?
- Are you responsible for several children?
- Have a history of emotional trauma or abuse, especially difficulties as a youngster?
- Are you a woman?
How Do You Get a Postpartum Anxiety Diagnosis?
It is quite more common than you think. If you are having postpartum anxiety symptoms, it is critical that you speak with your doctor or midwife about how you are feeling. They will ask you how you are feeling and may ask you to complete a questionnaire about your symptoms.
When speaking with your doctor, it is critical to be as candid as possible. Postpartum anxiety might be difficult to identify because there is no precise diagnostic test or tool available to clinicians. An open discussion about your symptoms and feelings with your doctor is the best method for him or her to diagnose you and determine the best course of treatment for you. There is no need for you to feel ashamed or embarrassed about discussing it.
Postpartum anxiety therapy choices are typically comparable to those utilized for other forms of anxiety disorders. Postpartum anxiety, like postpartum depression, can be treated. Various solutions are available, so you and your doctor can discuss which is best for you.
In milder cases of postpartum anxiety, the doctor may recommend some home relaxation techniques. One thing you may do is try to get more sleep and assistance. If you have any family members or a partner to whom you can give off your infant for a brief amount of time, using that time to relax is critical. You might also join a new parent group for support and to combat the loneliness that sometimes accompanies new parenting. Your doctor may offer talk therapy, specifically cognitive behavioral therapy, for more severe symptoms of postpartum anxiety (CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy)). CBT has been demonstrated to be quite helpful in treating anxiety disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
Some new parents may require anxiety medication, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). These are the most prescribed drugs for anxiety disorders. Many new parents report that when paired with counseling, these drugs are most useful in treating postpartum anxiety and depression.
Typical treatments include:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): A brief talk therapy session with a mental health expert to learn how to transform anxiety-producing cognitive patterns.
- Stress-reduction strategies: Techniques that can help reduce or manage stress, such as relaxation techniques, mindfulness, yoga, and meditation.
- Aromatherapy: Breathing in relaxing or soothing essential oils, such as lavender or bitter orange, may help decrease or manage stress and anxiety. Breastfeeding mothers should avoid applying essential oils to their skin since they can enter the bloodstream and pass into breast milk.
- Antidepressant drugs: include selective serotonin and noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs and SNRIs, which raise levels of mood-stabilizing serotonin brain chemicals.
- Antianxiety drugs: such as benzodiazepines, work to alleviate anxiety. Because they can produce negative effects, most antidepressant and antianxiety drugs are only used in cases of moderate to severe postpartum anxiety. They can also transfer from the bloodstream into breast milk and could harm a breastfed infant.
Should you take drugs while nursing?
Breastfeeding has numerous advantages for the newborn, including optimum nutrition, immune system development, prevention of adult obesity, and comfort and security. Breastfeeding also benefits the mother: it releases prolactin and oxytocin (love and cuddle hormones), which assist a mother in bonding with her infant and give relaxation. When deciding whether to start a drug, keep in mind that all psychiatric medications are secreted in breast milk. Your doctor can assist you in weighing the risks and benefits of medications depending on the severity of your condition, medication preference, and prior responses, as well as variables specific to your baby, such as medical disease or infancy.
Some risk factors for postpartum anxiety are unavoidable, such as having existing anxiety disorders, despair, or the “baby blues.” Infant blues are a very frequent, yet brief, ailment. For a week or two after labor, they are known to produce symptoms such as unpredictable sobbing bouts, restlessness, and irritability. Other mental health conditions, including anxiety and depression, should be treated as early in pregnancy as possible. This may aid in the prevention of postpartum anxiety and sadness later.
However, a number of the other risk factors associated with postpartum anxiety may be avoidable.
Postpartum anxiety risk factors include the following:
- having a lot of unpleasant life experiences or a lot of stress during pregnancy
- low levels of social support difficulties
- adjusting to life/relationships after childbirth
- past unplanned pregnancies or surgical abortions
- adopting specific coping strategies for challenges or big life changes.
- greater anxiety about childbirth and concern for the foetus’s or one’s own life during delivery.
- fear of losing control throughout the labor process
- lack of trust in one’s abilities to handle delivery or in the medical personnel performing or assisting with delivery.
- increasing concerns about parenting skills or capacity changes at work.
Tips for preventing postpartum anxiety based on the risk factors indicated above include:
- Managing or decreasing stress during pregnancy and later.
- establishing strong social support networks of friends and family.
- figuring out how to deal with stress and life changes.
- speaking with doctors and other medical personnel who will be aiding with labor and delivery about strategies to alleviate fears and build more confidence and control in getting enough sleep and exercise.
When to See a doctor?
Anxiety is common among all parents, especially new parents. People who have significant anxiety after childbirth should see a doctor.
These signs and symptoms may suggest that a person should seek medical attention:
- symptoms of postpartum depression that make it difficult to accomplish daily duties or care for and bond with a newborn
- increasing mental or physical symptoms
- ideas of self-harm or causing damage to a child
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