Postpartum Anxiety: Tips For Coping With The Baby Blues

Many new mothers experience a kind of emotional roller coaster once their baby is born, but feel embarrassed or even ashamed to admit their joy has muted into depression and/or anxiety. However, dealing with these emotions, which frequently occur during the first months of motherhood, is vital for the health and well-being of the mom, baby, and the entire family.

In this post, we clarify the difference between postpartum anxiety (PPA) and postpartum depression (PPD). We also offer suggestions for easing symptoms in a natural way, so that turning to medication may not be necessary, as many moms, particularly if they are breastfeeding, may prefer to avoid taking any kind of prescription drug.  However, when in doubt, seek out the help of your physician, as some mothers may find medication to make a positive impact.

1. Postpartum anxiety and depression are indeed different.

Women who suffer from postpartum depression are sometimes so immobilized that they are unable to care for themselves or their babies properly. According to the American Psychological Association, true postpartum depression (PPD) affects approximately one in 10 new mothers. PPA afflicts approximately one in seven new moms, making it more common. It is considerably milder; symptoms may include everything from sadness and feeling weepy, to ongoing irritability, and even certain obsessive behaviors, such as constantly checking the crib to be certain the baby is breathing.

2. Who is susceptible?

Unfortunately, there are no defining factors that can tell a woman whether she is likely to experience PPA when the baby is born. Mothers who have easy pregnancies are just as likely to experience anxiety as women who’ve had difficult ones. Nor is there any clear evidence that one race is more likely to be susceptible to postpartum anxiety than another.  However, there are several ways new moms can help themselves recover and get past these early months of anxiety.

Tips For Easing Symptoms Of PPA:

After nine months of pregnancy and its attending side effects, like morning sickness, weight gain, and trouble sleeping, new moms experience total joy when the baby comes. But sometimes sadness sets in, a kind of “blue” feeling that doesn’t go away with a night’s sleep. If you’re feeling this way, don’t be hard on yourself! After birth, a woman’s hormones fluctuate wildly, and it’s these changes that are one of the physical realities at the heart of PPA. To help ease the symptoms of PPA, try the following:

1. Talk to your partner, doctor, and other new moms.

 It’s important that new mothers feel free to express how they’re feeling to anyone with whom they are comfortable opening up. Having a network of friends who’ve gone through something similar can be enormously beneficial. So is talking to a professional, particularly if your doctor is a woman who may have experienced PPA in her own life. Furthermore, she can steer you to other women who gather to talk through their feelings and coping strategies, if you’re comfortable with that. Not feeling guilty is key.

2. Try to get consistently solid sleep.

This is tricky because infants need feeding every few hours. Ask your partner to take care of nighttime feeding if possible, by using a breast pump and storing extra milk, if breastfeeding.  This is the ideal time to consider hiring a newborn care specialist, if you can, who are trained to care for all aspects of newborn care from 12 to up to 24 hour stretches. Sleep is nature’s best remedy for stress and anxiety, and new mothers need as much of it as possible.

3. Cuddle up with your baby at every opportunity.

The physical bond between mother and infant is hugely restorative, experts agree, so hold and snuggle your baby every chance you get. The way they feel, that wonderful newborn scent, reminds mom why having them was worth every moment of discomfort and stress!

4. Try to increase your level of physical activity.

Even a brisk walk for 30 minutes, with your baby, bundled up in the stroller while you head to a nearby park, is excellent for both the body and mind. Ask friends if they’re game to begin walking together regularly, each of you pushing your newborn while you chat about issues all of you are facing. Knowing you are not alone, but rather that many women experience anxiety in the first few months of motherhood, is incredibly reassuring.

5. If you’re weaning your baby, try to do it gradually.

A sudden change can send hormonal surges into overdrive, which in turn can make anxiety worse. If you’re weaning in order to get back to work, begin the process slowly, so your body has a chance to adapt.

6. Ask for help when you need it.

Remind yourself that motherhood is challenging, and needing help is 100 percent normal and natural. You don’t have to do it all by yourself, and in fact, you shouldn’t! Telling your partner that you need a break, hiring a nanny, or turning to family members for some respite are all healthy, helpful ways of getting through the first several months in your new role.

Becoming a mom, particularly your first time, means your life is changing in wonderful, profound, and challenging ways. Feelings of anxiety are normal, and so is reaching out to express those feelings and seek help and support.

Postpartum anxiety is an understandable reaction to the huge physical and emotional changes that motherhood brings. But talking about your feelings and taking care of your body as well as you take care of your new baby, are both key strategies for coping with this feeling. As you adjust to motherhood, and your baby thrives because of your care, feelings of anxiety hopefully subside.  You’ll thrive in your new role, just like your new baby thrives because of your love, devotion, and dedication to their well-being and growth.