Crucial to heed warning signs, symptoms of Post-Partum anxiety

Dr. Katy Kamkar, Ph.D., C. Psych., Special to February 26, 2016

While we often hear of post-partum depression, we seldom hear of post-partum anxiety which also leads to tremendous amount of suffering and pain. Depression and anxiety disorders also often co-occur and thus if left untreated our suffering just compounds.

It is very common to have a lot of anxiety and worries when we are pregnant and after we give birth. We worry, for instance, about our weight gain, if our pregnancy symptoms and tests are “normal”, the impact of our pregnancy on our work and productivity, the pain of labour etc.

When the baby’s born, we worry about their health, whether we’re doing something wrong or not providing the best care to our child.

The list of worries is long and these are just some examples.

At all times it is important to seek social support and talk about your feelings and thoughts and worries so that, in turn, you feel better and less anxious and also have the chance to gather any help or resources you might need.

While anxiety is common during and after pregnancy, we also need to be aware of Post-Partum Anxiety and when to seek professional help.

If your anxiety gradually increases such that it creates increasing distress and/or interference with your ability to take care of your baby or yourself or engage in your daily responsibilities then post-partum anxiety might be present.

Here are some additional Warning Signs and Symptoms of Anxiety to look out for during Post-Partum:

  • Feeling afraid or nervous
  • Mood irritability
  • Worrying excessively
  • Feeling on edge or restless
  • Perceiving you don’t have control over the worries or over anything in your life
  • As a result of worrying excessively or feeling anxious, you experience sleep disturbance, reduced/increased appetite, difficulty concentrating or focusing, forgetfulness, and/or muscle tension (e.g., pain around the neck, shoulder or back, grinding teeth).
  • Seeking excessive reassurance
  • Repeated panic attacks; heart pounding; shortness of breath; sweating; dizziness; lightheadedness; shaking or trembling; feeling of losing control or going “crazy”; fear of dying or having a heart attack; abdominal distress
  • Obsessively checking in on your baby overnight
  • Obsessive reading of parenting books
  • Repeated intrusive thoughts or images of harm to the baby
  • Repeated behaviours such as cleaning or washing
  • Self-isolation because of anxiety, fear of going out and of something bad happening
  • Avoiding people, places or activities
  • Having perceived the labour experience as traumatic and having subsequent intrusive thoughts or images or nightmares that you cannot get rid of
  • Avoiding reminders of the labour experience such as going near a hospital or avoiding some related content on TV.
  • Feeling excessively jumpy; feeling hypervigilant or on guard for signs of “threat or danger”

It is important to know that you are not alone and that help is available. There is no need to prolong the suffering. Speak with your doctor or a professional therapist.

Here are some resources:

Dr. Katy Kamkar, Ph.D., C. Psych., is a Clinical Psychologist at the Work, Stress and Health Program/Psychological Trauma Program at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). She is an Assistant Professor within the Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto.

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