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 typically the treatment of 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

A best-selling self-help workbook using the principles of cognitive behavioural therapy to help with generalized anxiety, panic attacks, phobias, social anxiety and other anxiety-related conditions.

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.

 

Postpartum Depression and Anxiety: A Self-Help Guide for Mothers (4th edition)

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

The Smiling Mask: Truths About Postpartum Depression and Parenthood by Carla O’Reilly, Elita Patterson, Tania Bird et al (2008)

Three Saskatchewan women tell their personal stories of postpartum depression including postpartum psychosis. The authors also have their own website, which includes postpartum resources.

A Deeper Shade Of Blue: A Woman’s Guide to Recognizing and Treating Depression in Her Childbearing Years by Ruta Nonacs (2006)

This book is jam-packed with information on perinatal depression.  While informative, it may be overwhelming to read if depressed.

Beyond the Blues: A Guide to Understanding and Treating Prenatal and Postpartum Depression by Shoshanna Bennett and Pec Indman (2003)

Updated version published June, 2006. Clear, concise information about perinatal mood changes and anxiety. Intended for laypeople and professionals.

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.

Resources

Reduced-Cost Counselling [PDF]

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

College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC

For help in locating a family doctor in BC.

Vancouver Access and Assessment Centre (AAC)

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

24/7 phone, walk-in and outreach support for urgent, non life-threatening mental health and addictions issues.

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

604-873-0103
 – Support groups, education, info and referral to people living with depression or bipolar disorder and their supporters. The MDA also has a counselling clinic.