Guest Writer for Wake Up World
When I became pregnant with my first child, I was acutely aware of postpartum depression and how it might affect me as a new mom. Having struggled with depression in the past, I knew my previous battles with mental health predisposed me to PPD. However, I never expected to suffer from postpartum anxiety. In fact, I had no idea the condition even existed until I received my diagnosis.
About 10% to 15% of new moms and half of those with PPD develop PPA, yet no one seems to talk about this fairly common condition. Meanwhile, mothers like myself are left to deal with racing thoughts, excessive worry, insomnia and panic attacks. We live in a state of constant dread and fear that, at any given moment, something could go horribly wrong. Eventually, these fears can overtake us and steal the joy of motherhood.
While there’s no one cause of PPA, there are a number of things you can do to alleviate symptoms. Here are just a few ways I managed to ease my anxiety and truly enjoy those first few months of motherhood.
First and foremost, coping begins with recognizing and admitting that you suffer from PPA. I struggled with that first part because I’d never heard of the condition. However, once I knew what it was, I didn’t have much trouble admitting that I was experiencing anxiety to its fullest extent.
Yet, many mothers will avoid a diagnosis because they don’t want to look or feel inadequate. After all, us moms are supposed to have it all together and take care of baby, right?
Well, it turns out that anxiety is a completely normal response to giving birth and caring for a defenseless tiny human. So, no one should feel ashamed if they experience symptoms of anxiety and depression after having a baby. Besides, the sooner you admit you’re struggling, the sooner you can get help and alleviate symptoms.
Talk to Friends
Once I recognized and admitted to my husband that I was struggling with PPA, I began looking for other women who had walked this road before me. Did I know anyone who had battled anxiety and depression after giving birth?
After some deliberation, I decided to call up my best friend who had had her first child a few years ago. While she hadn’t received a diagnosis, she believed that she, too, had experienced many of the same symptoms I was dealing with.
Hearing her story validated my feelings and reminded me that I wasn’t alone. It also helped me realize that my PPA wouldn’t last forever and that it wasn’t so big that I couldn’t manage it. I could get through this, especially if I had strong women like my best friend cheering me on. Over the next few months, she would be the one I would call when things got tough and hers would be the shoulder I’d cry on. Together, we helped each other become stronger mothers.
Meditate and Move
PPA and other related mental health conditions can affect mom and baby bonding, especially during those first few months of motherhood. Some mothers might feel so anxious that they become overly attached and unable to separate themselves from their child. Others will experience the exact opposite and try to steer clear of their baby.
Both outcomes are problematic and can negatively impact your relationship with your infant. As you try to manage your own anxiety, you may find it difficult to attune to your baby and his or her needs. Luckily, you can ease PPA and learn to be more present by adopting mindfulness practices.
Two practices that helped me were mediation and yoga. Instead of waking up with worries, I spent the first few minutes of every day in quiet meditation. During these short moments of peace, I learned to observe my thoughts without reacting to them. Then, I got my blood pumping with a light yoga flow. If my babe was awake, I’d place him on the mat while I stretched, and it did wonders for helping us bond.
Go to Therapy
Talking to friends and taking yoga classes aren’t the right options for everyone. Sometimes, you need professional help like I did. While all of the above did help alleviate some of my symptoms, I still struggled with overwhelming bouts of fear and dread. In my darkest moments, I didn’t feel comfortable or capable of taking deep breaths or calling a friend. Instead, I started looking for a therapist.
Due to our financial situation, in-person sessions were out of the question. However, teletherapy was doable and I managed to find an app that let me connect with a trained professional 24/7. Simply talking to her and receiving support and encouragement was often enough to bring me out of panic mode and into the present. Eventually, my therapist helped me connect with more social support locally and I bid her farewell just a few months after my first session.
Don’t Wait to Get Help
Most new moms navigate the first month or two of motherhood alone, with little sleep or social support. Yet, the first two to six weeks are the most critical time for addressing mental illnesses like postpartum anxiety. Therefore, if you’re experiencing PPA, it’s crucial that you reach out and get help immediately.
While you might think anxiety will go away on its own, PPA can snowball and become an even bigger issue down the road. So, call PPA what it is and get help, even if the coping strategies above seem to alleviate symptoms. Your baby deserves the best mother in the world — and you can be that for them as long as you prioritize your mental health and take care of yourself first.
Also by Kara Reynolds:
- 8 Gentle Ways to Slowly Remove Sugar in Your Diet
- How Neurotypical Parents Can Support Neurodivergent Children
About the author:
Kara Reynolds is the Editor-in-Chief and founder of Momish Magazine. Mom, stepmom, and wife – Kara wants to normalize big blended families. She enjoys pilates, peanut butter, and pinot grigio – but not at the same time.