A catch-all term referring to any form of anxiety in the postpartum period (i.e. within a year after the birth of the baby), postpartum anxiety can include panic attacks, Generalized Anxiety (GAD), post-traumatic stress (PTSD), OCD or phobias.
Women with PPA may also notice the following symptoms:
- Excessive worry about the health or well being of the baby.
- Excessive worry about their own thoughts or behaviours in relation to the baby.
- Doubting that they are a ‘good mother.’
- Feeling keyed up, on edge, or unable to relax.
- Being unable to “shut off” one’s mind, particularly before going to sleep.
- Insomnia, difficulty sleeping
Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) is typically the treatment of choice for PPA. With time, support and help, PPA will improve.
A subtype of OCD and PPA, postpartum OCD can first appear during pregnancy or the postpartum period. Many mothers suffer in silence as obsessions and compulsions are often experienced as embarrassing or shameful. Also, there is incredible social pressure on women to experience childbirth and motherhood as the happiest time of their lives. An experience that does not jive with these social expectations is often kept secret.
Obsessions are often experienced as disturbing visual images that “flash” into a woman’s mind, seemingly randomly and without warning. These typically include images of the baby being harmed in various ways. Women with OCD are horrified at having these thoughts and may wonder if having them makes them a bad or dangerous. Postpartum OCD is a distinctly different condition than Postpartum Psychosis. In postpartum psychosis, the woman has lost touch with reality and may be in danger of harming the infant due to delusions, or faulty beliefs, about the baby. In contrast, women experiencing postpartum OCD alone have not lost contact with reality.
“These kinds of obsessions are particularly unwanted and people with them would never want to act on them. Having them DOES NOT mean you are crazy, dangerous, or evil deep down inside!”—Anxiety BC Association
Compulsions, or rituals, in the postpartum period can include:
- Excessively checking on the baby during naps or other times in the day.
- Giving the baby numerous baths during the day.
- Not allowing others to hold the baby due to fear of germs.
- Cleaning the home excessively.
- Laborious preparation around feedings (eg excessive measures to sterilize
- bottles, pacifiers, breast pumps, etc.)
- Repeatedly checking child restraints, car seats.
Postpartum anxiety is an enormous burden at an already hectic time of one’s life. If you would like to be free of your symptoms and suffering, contact me today to find out how I can help.