We are currently facing unprecedented circumstances that can cause anyone anxiety. Add parenthood or pregnancy into the mix, and that level of anxiety could quickly escalate. Anxiety lies on a spectrum. Most new parents, especially first-time parents, are prone to experiencing some anxiety in the postpartum period. It might include worries about whether the baby will be safe, is eating or sleeping enough and if you are doing a good enough job as a parent. All of these feelings and fears are normal. A low level of anxiety, especially in the early days, is an adaptive feature for parents to stay alert for their baby’s safety. However, postpartum anxiety becomes problematic when it consumes every second of every day. For example, if anxiety prevents you from sleeping, making typically easy decisions or driving anywhere with your baby for fear something will happen, then it might be starting to become problematic.
Postpartum anxiety does not mean your feelings are abnormal or just being paranoid. Anxiety is very real. It is not something you are making up, nor does it say anything about your ability to be a parent or how well you are coping. Between the significant hormonal shifts that occur after childbirth and the sleep deprivation, added responsibilities and physical healing after delivery, there are many triggers for you to develop anxiety.
If these symptoms are impairing your ability to care for your baby, go about your daily routine or your ability to rest is limited, please contact a mental health professional or obstetrician.
It is much more common for parents to develop feelings of anxiety and low or irritable mood during pregnancy than one might expect. The good news is that treatment options are plentiful to help manage these symptoms and allow a you to have a positive and enjoyable pregnancy. The traditional treatments we often consider include psychotherapy and medications. However, there are many more complimentary treatment options to explore, including massage for mood, acupuncture, light box therapy, folic acid supplementation, and omega-3s. To learn more about each one, read Complimentary and Alternative Treatment Options for Mood Symptoms in Pregnancy.
Another great resource is this interview I recently did with Dr. Nichelle Haynes, a perinatal psychologist based in Austin, TX. We cover “Everything You Need To Know About Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders.” Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMAD) can have effects on someone before, during, and after pregnancy, with symptoms further magnifying after delivery because of the new stressors like lack of sleep, hormonal shifts, and psychosocial status.
Shannon M. Clark, MD, MMS is a double board certified ObGyn and Maternal-Fetal Medicine Specialist, and founder of Babies After 35. In her roles as a clinician, educator and researcher at UTMB-Galveston, she focuses on the care of people with maternal and/or fetal complications of pregnancy. Dr. Clark has taken a special interest in pregnancy after the age of 35, which according to age alone, is considered a high-risk pregnancy.
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