Postnatal Anxiety: (A Complete Guide)
Postnatal period is also known as postpartum period. This period immediately starts after a mother gives birth to the baby child.
In this period the body of the mother, size of uterus and p levels of hormones begins to return to pre pregnancy conditions.
Different titles puerperal period or puerperium period or postpartum period are often regarded as the first six weeks after the birth of a child.
This time period is crucial and hitherto, the most disregarded and ignored time for the baby and his mother.
Most deaths of newborn babies and mothers happen during this phase.
There are three different stages of the postpartum period. First on is the initial stage, six to twelve hours followed by the birth of a child.
Second stage is the subacute postpartum period which consists of two to six weeks after the birth and lastly delayed postpartum period which can consist of six months.
87% to 94% of women, during the subacute postpartum phase, report one problem.
In the delayed postpartum stage in which 31% mothers can develop long term health issues.
Anxiety is generally known as fear of the future. When the body naturally responds to stress it is denoted as anxiety.
Feeling afraid or apprehensive about the future happening. A person may feel anxious about going for a job interview, first day at a new school or going to stage and delivering a speech to a gathering are the most common causes of instigating anxiety.
If this anxiety prolongs and remains for a longer period of time, i.e., six months and it starts disturbing the life patterns then it becomes anxiety disorder.
As a mother gives birth to a baby it can incite a bundle of strong sentiment of happiness, joy, excitement and also anxiety and fear.
It can also trigger an unexpected depression.
Many women during their postpartum period tend to experience baby blues after giving birth to babies.
This includes crying, mood swings, sleep difficulties and anxiety.
This time period starts often within 2-3 days of delivery which may last for upto 2 weeks.
Giving birth to a baby does not only bring tremendous changes to the body of the mother. These changes can be physical.
Such as fluctuation of hormones and physical shock.
These changes can not only influence the mood but can also significantly influence family life, sleep levels and stress.
These factors can influence the life of a person to an extent that he can become more anxious.
Various types of postnatal anxiety are there. Postnatal generalized anxiety disorder.
This can incite the state of worrying about the health of the child, feeding him and can make the person doubt the ability of being a parent.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder related to postnatal term includes distressed thought patterns and reservations and concerns about any problem or issues a baby might face.
Postnatal health anxiety refers to premeditated thoughts that something wrong might happen with the baby related to his health.
Postnatal Anxiety Symptoms
Postnatal anxiety can result in tiredness and with other physical symptoms as well.
There are few common symptoms of postnatal anxiety, such as, excessively worrying, feelings of apprehension, constant thoughts, losing concentration, difficulty in sleep, eating problems, dizziness, hot flashes, fast heartbeats and nausea.
Most of the women start experiencing these symptoms between the time of the birth of the baby and his first birthday.
In a few cases these symptoms start a bit early.
Around 25% to 35% percent cases of postpartum anxiety starts during the time of pregnancy.
As women begin to experience on edge immediately after the birth of a baby an event full of stress can happen which can incite postpartum anxiety months later.
An article which was reported in the Journal of Affective Disorders has shown that postnatal anxiety is found to be more common than depression in pregnant women.
Unluckily, one might not be aware that she is suffering from postnatal anxiety.
Though, this can be easily recognised through some symptoms associated with this disorder.
These symptoms are based on which kind of postnatal anxiety disorder a person may be facing.
Following are few postnatal disorders and symptoms associated with them;
Generalised Anxiety Disorder
An individual suffering from Generalised Anxiety Disorder may suffer chronic distress and may also suffer lack of concentration, sleeplessness, muscles strain and restlessness.
Women suffering from postnatal panic disorder can feel an instant and reparative panic attacks along with shortness of breath, fear of death, chest pain, heart palpitations and dizziness.
Postnatal Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
In this kind of disorder a woman can have obsessions and compulsions.
Those suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder may harm their babies intentionally or unintentionally.
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD is a psychological disorder which occurs when a person faces an unexpected traumatic event.
This can trigger negative thoughts, nightmares, extreme fear, severe anxiety, uncontrollable thoughts and flashbacks.
Usually, women postnatal anxiety might be facing more than one of the above mentioned disorders.
Causes of Postnatal Anxiety
How and why postnatal anxiety is found in a woman these causes are still unknown.
A clinician is unable to tell the reasons behind postnatal anxiety that why some mothers face this anxiety and why not other people tend to experience this.
There are no established reasons behind the rise of postnatal anxiety just like postnatal depression.
The reason behind the rise of this anxiety can be any of these, such as, changes in hormone levels, lack of sleep and overwhelming thoughts of responsibilities about to take place which will change the pattern of life which are coming with the birth of a baby.
It has been observed that those mothers with a history of any kind of anxiety are more prone to the development of postnatal anxiety.
Risk Factors for Anxiety Disorders
Many researches have revealed that a lot of risk factors are involved in the arousal of anxiety disorders among mothers who gave birth to babies.
Following are the possible risk factors:
A family history of anxiety disorders
Personal history of anxiety
Low socioeconomic status
Other pre-existing medical conditions
Unwanted or unplanned pregnancy
Stress related to caring or raising of the newborn
Feelings of guilt.
It’s hard to find the type of anxiety a mother is suffering from as there are different types of anxiety disorders which can prevail.
It’s not easy to Self-diagnose anxiety.
A person might get to know that there is something wrong with him but he won’t be able to get to the exact issue.
Based on the symptoms of the type anxiety one can find which type of anxiety he/she is suffering from.
Diagnostic criteria for Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
If a person is having chronic anxiety from the last six months or more than this he may develop generalized anxiety disorder.
Symptoms related to generalised anxiety include, irritations, restlessness, muscles strain, lack of concentration, lack of sleep, fatigue.
Some of these symptoms may exist from more than six months.
Diagnostic criteria for Panic Disorder
The signs of existence of panic disorder includes, sudden occurrence of panic attacks, experiencing specific symptoms during panic attacks.
For example, heart sinking, heart palpitations, shivering,trembling, sweating, breathing problems, discomfort, nausea, chest pain, numbness, chills, pain in stomach, fear of death and feelings of craziness.
Diagnostic criteria for Perinatal Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
The signs relating to the existence of perinatal obsessive compulsive disorder includes obsessions and compulsions.
Obsessions include undesirable and repetitive thoughts, urges and images. These thoughts might be of physical harm or they can be of sexual harm.
Compulsions including repetition of a particular behaviour.
For example, consistently looking if the baby is sleeping or not, washing and cleaning excessively.
Diagnostic criteria for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
There are higher chances of developing posttraumatic stress disorder among those women who have faced severe difficulties while giving birth to child as compared to those who didn’t face any major complexity.
Symptoms from which one can easily understand the existence of postnatal post traumatic traumatic stress disorder are, experiencing the traumatic events again anf again in different ways like nightmares, flashbacks and intrusive recollections.
To avoid getting in conversation about those feelings and thoughts which are directly or indirectly associated with that traumatic event.
To avoid those people, situations and activities which were the part of a traumatic event.
Treatments for Postnatal Anxiety
There are several methods to treat patients with postnatal anxiety. Therapies are considered a useful and harmless way of treating the patients with anxiety.
Following are main treatment options:
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
This therapy is considered as a vital and commonly used form of treatment for those suffering from anxiety disorders.
Many studies have shown that cognitive behavioural therapy is an effective method of treating patients with panic disorders, social anxiety, generalized disorder and phobias.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy focuses on the distressing thought patterns which are creating trouble for an individual.
As it is evident from the name,there are two basic components involved in cognitive behavioural therapy:
Cognitive: this involves how to examine negative feelings and thoughts which are contributing to anxiety.
Behavioural:this involves examining the behavioural aspect of how a person behaves and reacts in conditions which arise anxiety.
A fundamental idea of cognitive behavioural therapy is to focus on our thoughts as how they affect our overall feelings.
In other ways, it does not depend on the situation you are facing which decides how a person will feel but it depends on how a person perceives the situation.
Cognitive restructuring is a process which challenges the negative thoughts which are causing anxiety and then replaces them with more realistic, optimistic and positive thoughts.
In the 1950’s Wolpe developed this therapy.
This therapy is based on the principle of classical conditioning and it is similar to behavioral therapy.
The aim of applying this therapy is to eliminate those factors which contribute to anxiety and replace them with other useful relaxation responses to anxiety.
There are three phases to the treatment:
Firstly, the person suffering from anxiety is made aware of a technique which is muscle relaxation technique.
A person is also taught the breathing exercises. For example, taking control over breathing, muscle detensioning or meditation.
It is a very important step because of a mutual sub consciousness.
In this step the response is reserved as it is mismatching with the other. In this case where anxiety and fear is involved.
Fear involves tension and tension is not compatible with relaxation.
Secondly, the patient develops a hierarchy of fears. It starts with a stimuli which incites a lower level of anxiety and then grows up further to an extreme situation.
Lastly, patients develop a hierarchy of their fear stimuli starting from a lower unpleasant stimuli and practice its relaxation technique.
While practicing this relaxation therapy when they feel pleasant and feel that they are no longer afraid then continue to the next step of therapy.
If at any point a person feels uncomfortable or upset he can easily switch back to the initial stage and restart the process to gain relaxation.
Relaxation techniques are considered to be extremely beneficial for those who face anxiety. It can help in releasing tension and stress and gain some peace of mind.
In this kind of treatment deep breathing can be helpful for people with anxiety.
It is helpful in the management of physical symptoms and also it can help to manage stress and anxiety.
Exercising is a most recommended method to deal with any kind of anxiety. Exercise helps a person to forget about the issues he might be facing and focus on the steps and techniques to be followed during exercise.
Exercise releases the tension of muscles and relieves stress from mind.
Apart from exercising, playing different outdoor games and activities can potentially contribute in lessening the symptoms of anxiety.
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FAQs about postnatal anxiety
Q1. What is postnatal?
Postnatal is a period which immediately starts after a mother gives birth to the baby.
Q2. What is anxiety?
Anxiety is generally known as fear of the future. Natural response of the body to stressful events is known as anxiety.
Q3. What is postnatal anxiety?
Postnatal anxiety is related to the process of a mother giving birth to a child.
During and after the process of birth she undergoes different mixed feelings of joy and worry.
Q4. What are different types of disorders associated with postnatal anxiety?
There are a few different types of disorders which are associated with postnatal anxiety, such as, generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and panic disorder.
Q5. What are different techniques to treat postnatal anxiety?
Following therapies are considered helpful for treatment of postnatal anxiety:
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy,
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