Postpartum Anxiety

Women often experience signs of anxiety with postpartum depression, but it can also happen on its own               

Anxiety is a natural and adaptive response that we experience when we feel unsafe or threatened

Having a newborn at home is an emotional upheaval and can create many new fears and worries – this is normal!

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Anxiety is a normal emotion that humans experience throughout their life, but anxiety disorders are different. It is important to recognize symptoms of anxiety disorders which interfere with a person’s ability to live a normal life

  • Excessive worry

  • Scary of upsetting thoughts

  • Feeling on edge, restless and irritable

  • Avoiding people and places

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Trouble sleeping

  • Shortness of breath and light-headedness

Panic disorders are uncomfortable and shadow us with intense fear. It can sometimes feel like you are having a heart attack or nervous breakdown. Recognize the symptoms

  • Racing heart and chest pain

  • Sweating, hot/cold flashes

  • Shaking

  • A choking sensation

  • Upset stomach, which can lead to vomiting and dry heaving

  • Dizziness

  • Fear of dying

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can happen after a difficult or traumatic labour and birth. Be aware of the symptoms.

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  • Thoughts and dreams of the event

  • Feeling numb and detached

  • Difficulty sleeping

  • Avoiding your baby

  • Sexual problems

  • Avoiding further pregnancies

  • Avoiding places that remind you of the trauma

We experience anxiety in our bodies, minds, and actions/behaviours

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  • Bodies: increased heart rate, sore stomach, tight chest and throat, shallow breathing, loss of appetite

  • Mind: racing thoughts, imaging the worst-case scenario, excessive worry

  • Actions/behaviours: avoiding certain situations, activities or people, over-controlling, asking others for constant reassurance, repeatedly checking things

Settle your anxieties using the NEST-S technique

  1. Nutrition
    - Nutrition after a baby is hard – you may not feel hungry or you may find that you mainly eat unhealthy foods
    - Eat nutritious foods regularly and throughout the day to help you feel better
    - Keep a glass or bottle of water with you at all times
    - Even if you are not hungry, try a few mouthfuls. Snacking every 2 hours from the four food groups is a good way to keep your body filled with healthy foods
    - Prepare when you are out of the house – bring a bottle of water and easy snacks such as granola bars or fruit with you

  2. Exercise
    - Even a small amount of exercise can boost mental and physical wellbeing
    - Regular exercise can boost your mood and energy levels and reduce your anxiety! It can also help reduce muscle tension and create feelings of relaxation
    - Talk to your doctor about any limitations to your activity
    - Choose activities that work for you – whether walking, yoga, or going for a run
    - Consistency is key! Regular and short exercise sessions are better than occasional and long sessions
    - Find a friend! Walking with a friend, whether or not they have a stroller too, is a great way to keep in contact with others while doing activities with your baby

  3. Sleep and Rest
    - Put in effort to work on getting more sleep and rest – they are important for your physical and mental health
    - Your anxiety can worsen when you are sleep deprived
    - Ask for help with getting rest and sleep – you may need to ask your partner or a loved one to mind the baby or take over a few chores so you can catch up on sleep
    - Create a bedtime routine or ritual – whether you take a warm bath before bed or enjoy 20 minutes of light reading
    - Value your rest – even if you are not sleeping, lying down and resting is important to ease your mind
    - Adjust your expectations of yourself

  4. Time for yourself
    - Mothers often neglect taking time for themselves, which can increase their symptoms of anxiety
    - Having time to relax and unwind is important
    - Doing things that make you feel good and cared for are important. Daily uplifts can protect mothers from negative mental effects of stress
    - Find hobbies that appeal to you – sewing, doing a word puzzle, watching a video
    - Connect with others – spend time on your relationships
    - Have some alone time – even for 5 minutes

  5. Support
    - Social support and health relationships are a protective factor against anxiety
    - These relationships are important for mothers coping with anxieties and trying to make changes in their daily activities to reduced their symptoms
    - Emotional support – having someone to talk to about your struggles and concerns
    - Practical support – having someone to help with errands, household chores
    - Social network support – a group where you experience a sense of belonging (the drop-in program!)
    - Information support – access to reliable information and knowledge

References

City of Toronto. (2018). Pregnancy and Parenting. Retrieved from https://www.toronto.ca/community-people/children-parenting/

Canadian Mental Health Association. (2018). Postpartum Depression. Retrieved from https://cmha.ca/documents/postpartum-depression

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. (2018). Postpartum Depression. Retrieved from

https://www.camh.ca/en/health-info/mental-illness-and-addiction-index/postpartum-depression

Anxiety Canada. (2018). New moms: Feeling anxious? Retrieved from https://www.anxietycanada.com/parents/new-moms/feeling-anxious/recognizing-post-partum-anxiety

Steward, D., & Vigod, S. (2016). Postpartum Depression. The New England Journal of Medicine. doi:10.1056/NEJMcp1607649

Beck, C. (2006). Postpartum Depression. American Journal of Nursing, 106(5), 40-50.