A few months after the birth of my daughter, I felt immense anxiety. The thought of leaving my house with my daughter to do anything that was not part of the normal routine left me feeling overwhelmed. When I was out with her on my own I would constantly worry that something bad would happen. I felt guilty like I was doing something wrong. At night I would stress, worrying about her breathing and would set several alarms throughout the night to go check on her. I did not realize for a long time, but this wasn’t normal. I was experiencing symptoms of Postpartum Anxiety.
Postpartum Depression and Anxiety
Postpartum Depression (PPD) is more than just feeling sad. Symptoms of PPD include feeling disconnected from your baby or those close around you, extreme exhaustion that lasts more than just a day or two, thoughts of hurting yourself or your baby, feelings of anxiety, irritability, and lost interest in doing things that you used to enjoy. More information on postpartum depression symptoms can be found on the CDC website.
Although PPD can bring about feelings of anxiety, Postpartum Anxiety (PPA) can be its own diagnosis. PPA is usually accompanied by overwhelming feelings of anxiety.. Harvard Health Publishing describes the symptoms of PPA, the difference between PPA and PPD and the possible need for a different diagnosis.
Postpartum Depression and Postpartum Anxiety can be found in all ethnicities, races, and income levels. Several factors can increase risk like lower income, previous diagnosis of depression or anxiety before pregnancy, being a single mother, unplanned pregnancy, recent stressful factors like death of a loved one, job loss, other financial troubles, and traumatic birth experiences. Even when you do not fit inside those categories for risk factors, you can still experience either PPD or PPA. The Utah Department of Health states that, 1 in 8 Utah women experience effects of postpartum depression and 1 in 3 experience prenatal depression, prenatal anxiety and/or postpartum depression.
Having Postpartum Depression and/or Postpartum Anxiety can often feel isolating and overwhelming. However, mothers and caregivers suffering from PPD and PPA can be fairly common. Here a mother shares her experience with PPD and not feeling that bond and love for her newborn until she found help. In my own experience, as I’ve had the opportunity to talk to other mothers, I’ve found that many can relate and I feel better understood, and most importantly I don’t feel so alone.
What You Can Do
Postpartum Screening. If you believe that you have PPD or PPA or you are unsure about your feelings you can take the Edinburgh Screening which is a “postpartum” depression screening that can actually be taken during pregnancy and up to a year after delivery. When you submit this short questionnaire on our Help Me Grow Utah website, you will be connected with one of our Parent Support Specialists. They can help clarify and answer some of your questions and concerns, support you, and provide you contact with resources and professionals who can help.
Talk to your doctor. Talk to your healthcare provider about how you feel. If you feel like they are not listening or providing the help you need, you are encouraged to find another healthcare provider who can help.
Therapy. Many times your provider will recommend therapy. Talking to a qualified professional will help you gain a better perspective on how and why you feel the way you do. They will also be able to provide more specific advice based on your needs.
Medication. This should only be taken under the instruction and guidance of a healthcare professional.
Non-medication Strategies. Non-medication strategies are explained here and include: Cuddling your baby (a lot) , spending time with other mothers, increasing your physical activity, weaning gradually, and asking for help.
Lastly, give yourself a break. Being a mother is hard and it is a learning experience with each new baby.
PPD and PPA can feel so isolating. Often you will feel like you are just not yourself anymore.. But you are not alone and you do not have to face this on your own. It can be an incredible relief to make that effort to reach out to someone who understands. Whether a fellow parent who has gone through similar thoughts and feelings or a professional who can help provide options for relief, finding someone to share your feelings with can lift the weight you are experiencing.
The international hotline for postpartum depression is 1-800-944-4PPD(773).