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!


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.

  • 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


City of Toronto. (2018). Pregnancy and Parenting. Retrieved from

Canadian Mental Health Association. (2018). Postpartum Depression. Retrieved from

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

Anxiety Canada. (2018). New moms: Feeling anxious? Retrieved from

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.