Postpartum Anxiety

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 a common treatment choice for PPA. With time, support and help, PPA will improve.

Postpartum OCD

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

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.

Related Articles

Postpartum Tips

April 2011 In Postpartum Issues

A variety of strategies for navigating the postpartum period.

The Benefits of Anxiety

January 2011 In Anxiety

When we are in the throws of anxiety, we want immediate relief. How can there be a silver lining in all of this?

Recommended Books

The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook by Edmund Bourne (2010)

A best-selling self-help workbook using the principles of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to help with generalized anxiety, panic attacks, phobias, social anxiety and other anxiety-related conditions. Best for those with an interest in CBT.

Mothering the New Mother: Women’s Feelings and Needs After Childbirth: A Support and Reference Guide by Sally Placksin (2000)

The author honours the experience of new motherhood and the need for nurturance and care for the mother at a time when all attention is on baby. Combines women’s comments, resources and practical strategies in the text.


Operating Instructions: A Journal Of My Child’s First Year by Anne Lamott (1993)

A humorous and unflinchingly honest description of first-time motherhood.  Lamott writes with a unique level of candour, wit and vibrancy.


Between Interruptions: Thirty Women Tell the Truth About Motherhood by Cori Howard, Ed. (2007)

Canadian anthology of tales of motherhood. Honest and riveting.


Postpartum Depression and Anxiety: A Self-Help Guide for Mothers (7th edition)

This gentle guidebook, published by the Pacific Postpartum Support Society, offers encouragement, support and helpful advice to mothers experiencing postpartum mood changes. Recommended.

Down Came the Rain: My Journey Through Postpartum Depression by Brooke Shields (2005)

Actress Brooke Shield’s intimate recounting of her experience through postpartum depression and back.


Nurses Line – Health Link BC

Call 8-1-1 to speak with a registered nurse 24/7. Other professionals available through this line include after-hours pharmacists, exercise professionals and dieticians

Kelty’s Key Online Therapy

Free, self-directed online cognitive behavioural therapy.

Wellness Together Canada

Canada-wide, 24/7 professional phone counselling and other support options.

Crisis Services and Hotlines in Vancouver

Resource list, updated quarterly.

Reduced-Cost Counselling [PDF]

A resource list of lower-cost professional counselling options in Vancouver. Corrections and suggestions welcome.

Vancouver Access and Assessment Centre (AAC)

604-675-3700 – Joseph and Rosalie Segal Centre, Vancouver Hospital, Level 1, East Entrance

7 days a week: 7:30am-11pm. Phone, walk-in and outreach support for urgent, non life-threatening mental health and addictions issues. Response times vary. Serves residents of Vancouver.

Pacific Post Partum Society

Telephone support, support groups, partner support and resources for those suffering from postpartum depression and anxiety.

Mood Disorders Association of BC

Support groups, education, info and referral to people living with depression or bipolar disorder and their supporters. The MDA also has a counselling clinic.