We have all heard about postpartum depression, but there seems to be a lack of awareness about the common problem of postpartum anxiety. Let’s take a look at some reasons why symptoms of anxiety spike during this special time in a woman’s life.
Dramatic Body Changes
Reproductive hormone levels in a woman’s body are 20 to 30 times greater than normal during pregnancy, and after delivery estrogen, progesterone, and endorphin levels drop abruptly, leading to a cascade of physical and emotional changes. Add to this the affect of sleep deprivation on her body’s tolerance to stress, and a new mom has a shaky foundation with which to start this new chapter in her life.
Anxiety During Pregnancy and Postpartum
Pregnancy and the transition into motherhood is a highly significant rite of passage in a woman’s life. Its effects reach her on all levels. So, it’s no surprise that many woman suffer from fluctuating emotions and the “baby blues” during this time of great change.
However, in my clinical experience anxiety is even more common but may fly under our radar, especially in those women who are having or have had a high-risk and high-stress pregnancy. Extreme anxiety, recurring panic attacks, shortness of breath, chest pressure, heart palpitations, agitation, restless sleep, and excessive worry and fear, may be a result of the drastic changes–both physical and emotional–that a new mom experiences.
New Moms Identity Changes, Responsibilities, and Relationships
Becoming a mother also changes a woman’s self concept. Her identity must shift from that of an independent woman who comes and goes as she pleases, to one who is responsible for another human life. She suddenly has a new full-time position as a parent. Her body changes and her instincts now focus on caring for her child, which often leads to less interest in sexual intimacy for sometime after childbirth. All these changes in the way the new mom sees herself and how she adapts to this life-altering event, require her to navigate changes in her relationships with spouses, friends, family members, and her community as well.
Societies Idealistic Views on Motherhood
Creating a barrier for the new mom to be authentic about the challenges she faces, is our culture’s unrealistic and idealistic view of motherhood. There are preconceptions in our culture/society that motherhood is easy and blissful. A mom should bounce back quickly from childbirth and organically merge her new role and responsibilities into her previously established life. But the reality is that this is a stressful transition and one where new mothers can benefit from their social support network and from health professionals.
What New Moms Need to Know
New moms need to know that they are not alone in their feelings of worry, fear, and overwhelm, and that their experience is being taken seriously. They need to know that it’s not their fault; they are not failing at motherhood, and they need to know that they can be helped. The worry, fear and overwhelm can be addressed.
A Holistic Approach to Moms Wellness
Natural remedies assist the body in balancing emotions and bolstering endurance. Medication may be an appropriate choice for some women. Seeing a counselor experienced in pregnancy and motherhood is key, as are peer support groups. Cultivating spiritual practices and learning stress reduction techniques, which her counselor can assist her with, are also important. Guided or sitting meditation, yoga, journaling, napping and walking in nature are examples of things she can do for herself. Family members and supporters can prioritize this time for her self-care.
Offer Her Your Unwavering Support
Take a new mom’s experience of worry and anxiety seriously, prioritize her care, and help her get the professional assistance she may need. Pregnancy and motherhood is a time when we must give our upmost support and respect to women who wish to be great moms, spouses, and friends. A new Mom needs to be nurtured and supported in order to thrive in her new role.