Recovering from postpartum anxiety is a journey that requires patience, self-care and support. Welcoming a new baby into your life is a joyous and special experience. It is also a time of recovery, hormonal fluctuations, sleep deprivation and adjustments to new responsibilities. Postpartum depression (PPD) has gained a lot of attention in recent years, but there is another mental health condition that is just as critical to speak about: postpartum anxiety (PPA). With understanding, compassion and open communication, you can create a nurturing environment for your partner as they navigate postpartum anxiety disorder recovery, that promotes parent and baby's wellbeing and strengthens your bond as a couple.
Suzi Tyler, anxiety expert, first became aware of Postpartum anxiety when a close friend found that she was having excessive worrying, racing thoughts and feelings of dread. A 2018 study found around 20% of postpartum people who had given birth experienced clinical anxiety. It can also impact either parent, as well as those who have adopted. Suzi has treated male partners with postpartum anxiety also!
Postpartum Anxiety and postpartum depression can make parents feel tired all the time. Here are some common signs of postpartum anxiety disorder:
Changes in eating and sleeping patterns
Feelings of dread
Lack of concentration
"25% - 35% of postpartum anxiety cases begin during pregnancy" says Ann Smith, CNM president of Postpartum Support International. Smith notes that while most people with PPA will start feeling on edge shortly after giving birth, a particularly stressful life event, or even weaning from breastfeeding, can trigger PPA months later."
Suzi's expertise in Anxiety Disorder has attracted new mums and dad's going through postpartum anxiety disorder. Postpartum depression is a separate condition that also requires professional intervention. Encourage the person to reach out to their doctor or a mental health professional, who can provide an accurate diagnosis and recommend appropriate treatment options. Offer to find resources and help schedule appointments if needed.
Tip 1 - Provide emotional support for Postpartum anxiety disorder
Offer a listening ear and a non-judgemental space to express thoughts, fears and joys. Partners sometimes find it difficult to truly listen to each word and validate experiences without judgement. Avoid minimising or dismissing his/her experiences.
Tip 2 - Assist with Practical Tasks for Postpartum anxiety disorder
Postpartum depression can make it challenging to manage daily tasks and responsibilities. Offer practical support by offering to help with childcare or household chores, cooking meals, or caring for baby. Even small gestures like running errands or providing transportation can alleviate some of the stress and burden she might be feeling. Remind him/her that taking care of themselves is not selfish but essential for their personal wellbeing and ability to care for their baby.
"In moderate to severe untreated cases, postpartum anxiety can last indefinitely." Smith says. "Perinatal mood disorders don't always disappear on their own, in some cases, if left untreated, they can set people up for a lifelong bout with mental illness."
Tip 3 - Encourage self-care activities
Encourage self-care activities: Self-care is crucial for individuals experiencing postpartum anxiety and postpartum depression. An expert can teach relaxation techniques such as meditation, progressive muscle relaxation and mindfulness training. When completed before bedtime, these exercises can aid quality sleep. Exercise can also relieve anxiety and depression by helping to feel more empowered, Dr. Howard says, six weeks of resistance training or aerobic exercise led to a remission rate of 60% and 40% respectively, among females aged 18-37 with generalised anxiety disorder (GAD).
"I think of postpartum anxiety as the loss of the normal sense of balance and calm and postpartum depression as a loss of heart."
Remember, everyone's experience with postpartum anxiety and postpartum depression is unique, so it's important to listen to the individual's needs and preferences. Worrying is normal for all new parents, but if your worries will not stop or are irrational (say you have an intense fear that your baby will get hurt if you're not holding them), these symptoms only become a problem when they affect everyday life or they interfer with your ability to function. Encouraging self-care activities can help provide a much needed break from the challenges of taking care of yourself and baby's needs. Leave a comment below if you have any helpful tips to share.