Postpartum Anxiety

In light of the tragic death of new Vancouver mother, Florence Leung, who struggled with postpartum depression, and in support of Bell’s mental health campaign to keep the conversations surrounding mental illness going, I wanted to also bring awareness to a lesser-known postpartum problem: anxiety.

Anticipating the maternity blues and watching for signs of postpartum depression are typically brought to the attention of new mothers. Postpartum follow-up appointments often consist of filling out test batteries that screen for symptoms of postpartum depression. Yet, little awareness is given to this postpartum problem that is sometimes comorbid with depression. As a result, postpartum anxiety can go undetected. Recognizing signs and knowing when to seek help may reduce its adverse impact on daily living.

The transition to motherhood can be challenging. We often worry constantly about the well-being of our newborn and our new life as a mother. While moderate amounts of anxiety help us think and act more effectively, excessive, uncontrollable anxiety can be debilitating. Psychologist and UBC Department of Psychiatry Professor specializing in perinatal mental health, Dr. Nichole Fairbrother, explains that,

 “Clinically significant anxiety affects approximately 15% of pregnant women and new mothers. Anxiety disorders are distressing to the women who suffer from them, and can interfere with parenting and other aspects of a person’s life.”

Postpartum anxiety can disturb sleep, disrupt concentration, and impair one’s ability to function and interact socially. Knowing when to seek help is an important step to self-care. As Dr. Fairbrother further recommends,

 “If you feel that your anxiety is getting in the way of enjoying your life, your pregnancy or baby, or your relationships with others, or is interfering in your ability to live your life fully, then it may be a good idea to seek help.”

It can be hard to tell the difference between postpartum depression and/or anxiety and simply feeling the effects that motherhood can have when you are dedicating your focus to caring for your baby. After all, no 2 mothers experience PPD/A the same. Here are some common signs of PPD/A:

  • Feeling that something isn’t right
  • Feeling helpless or overwhelmed by everyday activities
  • Not bonding with baby or feeling resentment or lack of interest
  • Feeling angry or aggressive
  • Feeling numb or unable to feel emotions
  • Crying often, even when you don’t know why
  • Afraid to be alone
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Frightening, intrusive thoughts about you or baby getting hurt
  • Feeling overwhelmed by anxiety or panic attacks
  • Loss of appetite or overeating
  • Difficulty sleeping, even when you get the opportunity
  • Constantly worrying about baby
  • Feeling like you’re alone, or have no support
  • Feeling like you’re not good enough or are a ‘bad mom’
  • And again – above and beyond else – It comes down to just feeling like something isn’t right

Taking care of your self ensures that you are helping your baby as well. We have women and moms on our Victoria Moms Blog writing team who can vouch for how incredibly helpful something as simple as just talking to someone about how you are feeling can be. There are many great support resources in our area. If you believe you have or might have postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety, please do not hold back from reaching out to one of the following support sources: