Postpartum Anxiety: The “Hidden Disorder”
As a new mom or soon-to-be mom, you are constantly hearing about the dangers of Postpartum Depression, or PPD. What we don’t hear enough of, though, is the other silent malady… Postpartum Anxiety, or PPA. While all new moms have a certain level of “What am I doing?” and “Am I doing any of this right?”, new parents with PPA have an overwhelming sense of anxiety relating to their new bundles of joy. PPA can incorporate physical, mental, and emotional symptoms…just like PPD. Including, but not limited to, disruptions in eating, sleeping, dizziness, hot flashed, rapid heart rate, nausea, and more. Some moms even experience the inability to sit still and the constant nagging need to be moving and doing something. The statistics are staggering wherein “25 – 35% of postpartum anxiety cases begin DURING pregnancy.” That means that these moms begin to have these anxious and unnerving feelings well before they even hit the stir-ups in the delivery room!
Unfortunately, PPA doesn’t get as much attention as it deserves. It is often overshadowed by its more popular sibling, PPD. Many time PPA is classified as a “hidden disorder” because so few parents know what it is, that it even exists, or any of the signs and symptoms to look out for. The sad truth is that it is not very well researched yet, regardless of the fact that it happens more often than PPD. Many parents are brushed aside with a stream of “You’re just a new mom, these feelings will pass” or “How could you think those things about your new baby?”. Those statements and general lazy comments are what lead moms to have some serious mommy guilt about the way they are feeling, which in turn makes their anxiety and fears significantly worse! When a persons’ anxiety and fears and racing thoughts begin to interfere with their lives, it can cause them to begin the descent into depression.
The difference between natural, adaptive, and evolutionary anxiety and PPA is this; If those feelings of “What if the baby can’t breathe sitting this way? What if I drop the baby while walking? What if the baby slips in the tub and drowns when I’m not staring at them?” don’t dissipate when your hormones start to even out and you learn to dismiss those notions, you may be experiencing PPA. If you are experiencing incredibly irrational fears, such as not being able to sleep for more than 45 minutes at a time because you are certain something bad will happen to baby if you do, that may be a sign of PPA. Sometimes those feelings of dread creep up on you in random moments. Like if you find yourself driving along the road and all of a sudden have an overwhelming worry that something is going to happen, to either you or baby, and it is beginning to affect your life, you may have PPA.
How we diagnose PPA; because of the fact that any new parent can develop postpartum anxiety, there are steps put into place to try and screen new moms for certain developments in their mental health following the birth of a baby. Adversely, some parents may pass these little checklists with flying colors but still, in reality, need help. The checklists are not a foolproof method, but they are a good jumping off point to getting a conversation started. Many hospitals and doctors are pushing for a 3-week postpartum visit now, rather than 6-week, to try and get on top of any lingering feelings of depression or anxiety, that should have settles down by then. Typically, professionals say that the “Baby Blues” lasts only about 2 weeks, why then are we constantly telling new parents well after the two weeks mark that it is simply the “Baby Blues”?
In conclusion, the stigma behind mental health and mental illness is causing new moms to hide their true feelings and emotions and racing thoughts from those who should be there to support and encourage them. As science progresses and new discoveries are made, we can only hope to continue to bring light to this “hidden disorder” and bring confidence and control back to those new parents suffering from it. Remember to check in on those new parents who seem like they are playing the part of superhero, they may be the ones who need an open-ear and open-heart the most!
Postpartum Anxiety: The other Baby Blues we need to talk about by Stacey Colino and NIcole Fabian-Weber – https://www.parents.com/parenting/moms/healthy-mom/the-other-postpartum-problem-anxiety/
Article written for Parents.com detailing the difference between baby blues, postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety. Gave examples and quotes of a parent and quoted a few doctors on the signs, symptoms, and treatment of PPA.
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