After the birth of my son, Leo, I found myself having moments of panic and an overwhelming feeling that something was wrong...even though it wasn't. I found myself over-analyzing every situation, every room we were in, every person that was near us- visualizing every germ on them and every noise that was made. I felt like every second Leo was out of my arms or out of my sight was a time that I couldn't keep him safe. To many, it seemed like I was being an overly cautious mother, but to me...to me it felt like I couldn't breathe.
I was soon diagnosed with Postpartum Anxiety, a term, in my opinion, barely does the feelings justice. Sure, everyone has moments of anxiety or worry- especially new mothers. But to suffer from Postpartum Anxiety, is to mix your new worries as a mother, with your fears of the world, with your imbalanced hormones, your body that isn't really yours, and people around you that think you are just being too sensitive.
So what is PPA? Local therapist & maternal mental health expert, Mollie Bussino breaks it down and shares some basic tips to help manage.
What is Postpartum Anxiety?
Most people have heard of Postpartum Depression - They may not fully understand it or identify it but have at least heard some piece of it. However, one of the most common postpartum challenges experienced by many women is Post Partum Anxiety (PPA). This is another unfortunate area of the postpartum realm that is not spoken about as much as it should.
Research has been displaying that there is an increase in new moms experiencing symptoms associated with anxiety more often than depression. The physical symptoms can include heart palpitations, heaviness in one’s chest, dizziness, and difficulty taking a breath. Postpartum Anxiety can create fears for the baby’s or safety of others, the future, germs, sleep, and the baby’s weight. These anxious thoughts and feelings can appear out of nowhere or be a constant “buzz” in the background .
Anxiety can be overwhelming and terrifying to manage on its own but even more overwhelming when one has to combat it while navigating new motherhood.
Here are a few tips for managing:
1) SHARE THE FEARS. Wrestling in isolation will often make the anxiety increase.Tell a friend, significant other, doctor, therapist, or attend a support group
2) RECOGNIZE: Your thoughts may feel out of control but that does not mean that YOU are out of control
3) SELF-CARE: Caring for oneself (such as showering and eating regularly) as a new mom can feel overwhelming but a strong foundation of self care can help build the strength to face the anxiety
4) BREATHE: Anxiety creates all forms of physical tension. Set your alarm for every few hours to take 5 deep breaths as a reset
5) GO OUTSIDE: PPA is often associated with fears of what may occur if one takes the baby out so it is imperative that a new mom tries to get out at least for a few minutes daily. If it feels too overwhelming to go alone with the baby then ask a friend or significant other to join.
6) TAKE THE CREDIT: Give yourself all the credit you deserve- giving birth then taking care of an infant can be unbelievable tasks for our bodies and minds to face...then add on PPA it can be quite a lot to endure. Recognize the strength that you are showing by going through it all.
In the interest of May being National Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week- I commend all of the super moms out there fighting thru PPA any other Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder. You are the definition of a true Superhero!
Mollie Busino LCSW is a Hoboken based therapist specializing in Anxiety, Depression, Anger Management, Career Changes, OCD, Relationship/Dating Challenges, Insomnia, & Postpartum Depression/Anxiety. To learn more about Mollie and her practice, visit Mindful Power