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No one talks about…Postpartum Anxiety

Perissos Therapist, Lisa Butler, shares her thoughts on anxiety, specifically about recognizing the difference between "normal" anxiety and postpartum anxiety.

One major thing that I have learned since becoming a mom is that most moms experience anxiety about their children, and this begins after birth. Ok let’s be honest this starts during pregnancy! There is what we would call “normal anxiety”, because it is normal and natural to experience anxiety, and then there is postpartum anxiety, which is more intense/severe. In my experience when preparing to have a baby no one talks with you about this anxiety. Even very few of my friends who had babies before me mentioned it, until after I had a baby myself.

In my experience as a therapist specializing in maternal mental health I have worked with many first time moms but I have also had many 2nd or 3rd time moms seek therapy during pregnancy because they know they struggled after previous pregnancies and want to be better prepared. Helping clients prepare for their mental health journey after having a baby gives them more understanding and control. One “fun” thing about anxiety is that anxiety likes to create more anxiety. However if the person experiencing anxiety, or their partner, can identify and validate the anxiety sooner they are less likely to spiral.

Here is a list of things I have heard from moms who struggled during a previous pregnancy/postpartum period.

  • I thought I was going crazy

  • I didn’t know what was happening

  • If someone had just told me

  • If I knew I could ask for help

  • I was worried to talk about it and let others know

  • I was scared I would hurt my baby (this is a fear put in our heads by hollywood and very very uncommon)

I don’t want any moms to think or feel this way. I want moms to know that anxiety is normal, anxiety can happen to anyone and that there is help! One of the number one questions I get is how do you know the difference between “normal” anxiety and postpartum anxiety. Here is an easy way to break it down.

Normal Anxiety during Postpartum

  • You initially worry about something but it improves over time. For example worrying the baby isn’t breathing.

  • Getting feedback from others helps to calm you.

  • It’s not interfering with appetite or sleep.

  • You trust yourself and others

Sign of Postpartum Anxiety

  • Worries aren’t improving or are getting worse over time.

  • It’s impacting your daily functioning.

  • Racing thoughts, can’t quiet your mind, you can’t settle down.

  • You don’t trust anyone else with the baby.

  • You feel like you have to be doing something at all times.

  • You are worried. Really worried. All. The. Time. Am I doing this right? Is the baby breathing? Is the baby eating enough? Is there something wrong with my baby that I’m missing? No matter what anyone says to reassure you, it doesn’t help.

  • You may be having disturbing/intrusive thoughts. Thoughts that you’ve never had before.

  • You may feel the need to check things constantly. You can’t eat. You have no appetite.

  • You’re having trouble sleeping. You are so, so tired, but you can’t sleep.

  • You feel a sense of dread, like something terrible is going to happen.

  • You know something is wrong. You may not know you have a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder, but you know the way you are feeling is NOT right. You think you’ve “gone crazy.”

  • You are afraid that this is your new reality and that you’ve lost the “old you” forever.

  • You are afraid that if you reach out for help people will judge you. Or that your baby will be taken away.

I also want moms to know that postpartum anxiety can occur up to a year after birth and the average onset is 10 to 14 weeks. Some people may believe, or even be told by a doctor that if it didn’t happen in the first 3 months then it’s not postpartum anxiety. Leaving moms feeling even worse!

As always, if you or someone you know would benefit from extra support, we are here to help.


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