What Is Postnatal Anxiety?

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The term postnatal depression is commonly understood. But this isn’t the only disorder that has the potential to arise after a woman gives birth to a child. Mental health programs also see women who suffer from a lesser-known condition called postnatal anxiety. Studies have indicated postnatal anxiety is actually more common than postnatal depression.

What Is Postnatal Anxiety?

Characteristics of Postnatal Anxiety:

Postnatal anxiety arises after a woman is pregnant. Anxiety in small amounts is normal. It’s the reaction people have to stressful situations. They may not be able to concentrate, may talk more than normal or feel uneasy. They may have an unrealistic amount of fear about something. When someone is anxious, they pace, start tasks and not finish them or become snappy or irritable. It’s not uncommon for the person to be unable to sit and relax. Drinking, eating or smoking more are common reactions to stress as well. When this becomes too frequent or about situations that don’t warrant that level of anxiety, it’s more than just a natural response; it becomes an anxiety disorder. After a woman gives birth, she can develop an abnormal level of anxiety, which is then classified as postnatal anxiety disorder. In some situations, the anxiety warrants mental rehabilitation.

Postnatal Anxiety Takes one of Three Forms:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder is a fear about everything from feeding to health to a person’s ability to mother. The worry that something bad might happen is also common with postnatal generalized anxiety disorder. Although a majority of mothers have some level of anxiety regarding parenthood, especially new mothers, those with a disorder will notice the anxiety affects their life and even their sentiments toward being a parent.
  • Postnatal obsessive-compulsive disorder causes mothers to have distressing thoughts or mental images of harming the baby, either intentionally or on purpose. Their intention isn’t to harm their child, however. They tend to clean and organize obsessively in an effort to keep their child safe.
  • Postnatal health anxiety causes new mothers to obsess over their child’s health. The mothers aren’t convinced nothing is wrong even after medical intervention. Oftentimes, mothers go beyond following guidelines in order to keep the child safe.

What Causes it?

Having a new child is a stressful situation to begin with. For women who already have anxiety, it only worsens the condition. This is mainly due to hormonal fluctuations that change a woman’s mood. Lack of sleep has the potential to trigger anxiety or make it worse. Any problems in the woman’s family life, such as being a single mother, have an impact on anxiety as well.

How is it Treated?

A mental health programs may be needed for women who suffer from severe cases of this mental ailment. They have the ability to prescribe a medication to reduce anxiety. Mental health programs also have specialists to provide therapy for mothers who are feeling an unhealthy level of anxiety about being a parent or about their child’s well being. This is especially important because mothers who are having thoughts of harming their child may feel horribly alone and like bad parents. They’ll learn self-help techniques to avoid anxiety and to relieve it after they feel it coming on.

It’s also important to have a strong support system at home. This may include the father of the child, parents or a close friend. The mother needs a break and to feel like she’s not completely alone.