What is postnatal anxiety?
We don’t hear about it that often despite it being very common. Postnatal depression (PND) is talked about frequently and rightly so, but what about the feelings of overwhelming anxiety before or after having a baby? The worries that creep in the early morning as the sun rises after another broken night’s sleep?
Postnatal anxiety is very common, it can be caused by changes in hormones and the physical shock of giving birth and from a lack of sleep. It’s also caused by the change to your life when your little one comes along; this wonderful addition can throw the family routine right out of the window and this can be hard to adapt to.
So, what does it look like? Common signs are feeling tense and on edge. Having a racing mind, being preoccupied with negative thoughts about not being able to cope; finding it hard to concentrate, feeling irritable and struggling to sleep. Physical symptoms include having a racing heart, butterflies in your tummy, feeling dizzy, having headaches and panic attacks. Worrying about how to care for a teeny tiny is completely normal, this is a huge new job that you’ve had no training for and it is daunting. So how do you know when your anxiety is getting too much? Common signs are:
· Experiencing panic attacks
· Worry about your baby being in danger or coming to harm
· Worrying about your general safety of your baby
· The concerns you have about your baby are affecting your everyday life
This last one is key: if your worries are getting to a point that it is affecting your ability to go about your daily life it’s time to get some help. The best thing is to talk to someone you trust: a family member, a friend and your GP. Tell them how you are feeling, there is nothing to be embarrassed about. The most important thing is seeing that anxiety is an alarm bell that rings to signal you need more support. This might be getting some practical help so that you can rest (sleep is a wonderful way of reducing those racing thoughts and makes huge worries feel more manageable).
Secondly, it might be that you need some psychological support. Perhaps being anxious is something you’ve experienced for a long time and it’s time to learn some tools to manage it effectively. You could start by learning breathing exercises and mindfulness techniques. CBT is also very effective, talking to someone is safe, non-judgemental space to challenge your worries about your inability to cope will help. These are options are all available with our in-house Psychologist, Dr Felicity Lynagh. Anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) medications can be prescribed but these need to be discussed with your GP if you are breastfeeding. Exercise is also proven to be a wonderful anxiety buster, so get yourself outside for a gentle stroll with a friend or try some yoga. If you’re not sure what’s safe to do, why not ask our in-house postnatal fitness expert Charlie Lauder for some advice.
Felicity Lynach – 28 May 2019 (Counselling Psychologist)