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Why Postpartum Anxiety is Often Undiagnosed in New Mothers




Many people have heard of postpartum depression (PPD). Most even understand the basic signs — even though PPD can often be confused with the “baby blues.” But, postpartum anxiety isn’t as widely known, even though it can be just as prominent. 


Unfortunately, postpartum anxiety is often undiagnosed in new mothers. It’s an epidemic that affects thousands of women each year, and the fact that it often goes ignored is extremely problematic and dangerous. 


So, why is it so often undiagnosed? More importantly, how can you make sure you receive the right diagnosis if you’re struggling? 


What Is Postpartum Anxiety?

Postpartum anxiety refers to excessive worry after having a baby. While it’s normal to be a little worried about the well-being of your newborn, anxiety takes things to another level. It can feel like constant dread or a vicious cycle of fear. You might always assume the worst will happen, so you’re obsessed with the idea that something is about to go wrong.


The worry over your baby’s well-being can quickly take over every second of the day. It can make life completely overwhelming and wreak havoc on your mental health. You may find it impossible to rest or sleep when your baby is sleeping.


Unfortunately, the signs and symptoms of postpartum anxiety can vary widely. That’s one of the biggest reasons why it often goes undiagnosed. Understanding some of those symptoms can make determining what you’re dealing with easier. The more you understand postpartum anxiety, the easier it will be to advocate for yourself to get the help you deserve.


What Are the Signs of Postpartum Anxiety?

Again, symptoms can vary from person to person. It’s important to tune into how you feel after having a baby. If you’re experiencing persistent worry, you’re irritable, or it feels like your thoughts about something bad happening to your baby are becoming obsessive, you could be dealing with postpartum anxiety. 


There are also physical signs to look for. Difficulty sleeping is a huge sign. But many parents ignore that because they aren’t getting much sleep with a newborn, anyway. What you want to ask yourself is "Am I able to sleep when the baby is sleeping?" If the answer is no, you may have postpartum anxiety. Other signs might include trouble breathing, a racing heart, or fatigue. 


The constant anxiety can also cause you to have nausea or digestive issues. You might always feel “sick” with no real desire to eat. Muscle aches and pains can also be a huge problem, leading you to believe it’s a physical issue rather than a mental one. 


What Causes It?

You’ll also be more likely to get a diagnosis if you know where this kind of anxiety comes from. There’s no one solitary cause when it comes to postpartum anxiety. Rather, certain risk factors could increase your likelihood of experiencing it. Some of those factors include:

  • A history of anxiety

  • A difficult delivery experience

  • Lack of support

  • Financial issues

  • Family history of mental health issues

  • Having multiple children

  • A child with health conditions


None of these factors mean you’ll automatically have anxiety. But, if you’ve been struggling with some of the symptoms above, consider how other stressors in your life could be contributing to your fearful, worried thoughts. 


What Can You Do?

Postpartum anxiety doesn’t last forever. While there’s no timeline, you should find some comfort in knowing you won’t have to feel this way until your child is an adult. However, some parents aren’t able to let go of that fear for years. 


Obviously, you don’t want to live with postpartum anxiety when your child is a toddler and beyond. So, once you recognize the symptoms, talk to your doctor. Do what you can to get an official diagnosis. When you do, your doctor or therapist can create a customized plan that fits your needs. Sometimes, simply being able to talk to someone can help to ease your anxiety and allow you to be more present for yourself and your newborn.




 

Jennifer Perera is a mom of two boys, a spouse and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She is also Certified as a Perinatal Mental Health Professional by Postpartum Support International. She has a private practice in Springfield, New Jersey and also sees clients throughout New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Illinois via telehealth. Her passion is helping new moms and dads find their joy again in parenthood through individual and couples counseling. She also runs workshops for new parents, teaching them techniques and strategies to help them have a stronger relationship - built to thrive during the parenthood years. Jennifer specializes in working with parents during the prenatal and postpartum periods and those coping with grief or loss issues surrounding pregnancy.




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