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What Is Postpartum Anxiety?

By May 10, 2018November 19th, 2020Anxiety, Dr. Jenny Yip

A new baby is an exciting and beautiful addition to a family. In between all of the quiet snuggles and sweet coos, however, there can also be moments of frustration, exhaustion, and anxiety. The drastic lifestyle changes and sleepless nights can cause any new mom to feel overwhelmed. Postpartum depression is widely understood and discussed between mothers and health care providers now, but rarely does anyone talk about the symptoms of postpartum anxiety, which can be just as debilitating. While it’s completely normal for new moms to experience periods of stress, postpartum anxiety is more severe in that anxious thoughts are a constant and the anxiety starts affecting routines on a daily basis. Learn more about postpartum anxiety below.

What are the Symptoms of Postpartum Anxiety?

Worrying about your new bundle of joy is very common for new mothers. From panicking in the morning after the first full-night’s sleep, to wondering if letting them cry it out will affect their psychological well-being for the rest of their lives, there are a lot of stresses that new moms are constantly aware of. While these thoughts and feelings are meant to help moms care for their babies and ensure their survival, sometimes they turn into full-blown anxiety. This, of course, isn’t healthy for either the mom or the baby. Here are some common symptoms of postpartum anxiety to help you determine whether or not you or someone close to you may be struggling with it:

  • Constant feeling like something bad is going to happen
  • On-edge, moody
  • Elevated heartbeat
  • Muscle tension
  • Nausea or upset stomach
  • Insomnia or trouble sleeping
  • Obsessive negative or irrational thoughts
  • Engaging in ritualistic behaviors or compulsions (see What is OCD? for more information)


Most at Risk and How to Treat for Postpartum Anxiety

Those who have experienced anxiety in the past, or who have a family history of mental health disorders, may be more at risk for developing postpartum anxiety in the first three months after giving birth. Even with none of these precursors, the hormonal shift after birth, along with lack of sleep and possible erratic diets, can push any new mom into postpartum anxiety territory. Often, the lack of self-care commonly seen with postpartum anxiety only compounds the issue. If left untreated, the symptoms can worsen and eventually interfere with the simplest of tasks. The intrusive negative thoughts can make it difficult for moms to bond with their babies during this crucial developmental time period and may even allow for resentment to take hold. Some moms hope the feelings will pass, but most need external support to overcome the anxiety.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is the go-to solution for postpartum anxiety and has helped many new moms cope with their new responsibilities. CBT gets to the root of how the anxiety began and helps moms develop new ways of thinking or behaving to combat the anxious thoughts. With a trained therapist assisting with this, new moms can reduce the frequency and/or intensity of the postpartum anxiety symptoms and get back to enjoying their precious little ones.