What is Perinatal Anxiety?

Symptoms

Symptoms of perinatal anxiety may include recurrent feelings of intense worry or panic. Anxiety symptoms usually appear during pregnancy or in the first 2-3 weeks after the birth of a baby, but may not reach a distressing level until several weeks later. There is some overlap between depression and anxiety, and some women have symptoms of both. Many women with postpartum anxiety have recurrent fears about harm coming to their children, other loved ones or themselves.

The symptoms of anxiety during pregnancy or after childbirth might include:

  • Constant worry
  • Feeling that something bad is going to happen
  • Racing thoughts
  • Disturbances of sleep and appetite
  • Inability to sit still
  • Physical symptoms like dizziness, hot flashes, and nausea

Causes

Brain Chemistry Imbalance

High-level anxiety is often caused by imbalances in the ‘feel good’ chemicals in our brains. Serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine are the neurotransmitters that are responsible for emotional balance, and sudden drops in hormones are believed to have a direct impact.

Negative Thought Patterns

Women who are worriers or perfectionists, have high and often unrealistic expectations for themselves and who have a tendency toward negative thinking prior to becoming pregnant, are at risk of developing more severe postpartum anxiety once a baby is born. For these women, the new lack of control, many responsibilities of parenting and reality of caring for a newborn all contribute to racing thoughts and heightened worry.

Nutrient Depletion

Numerous studies have linked nutrient depletion during pregnancy and postpartum depression and anxiety in many mothers. The role of healthy eating and monitored vitamin supplements if/when necessary cannot be underestimated in a moms’ health and wellness.

Sleep Deprivation

Having a newborn drastically limits the ability for moms to get adequate sleep. Frequent night waking, breastfeeding and high anxiety makes it difficult for most moms to get the rest that they need for optimal health.

Dehydration

Some studies have suggested that dehydration contributes to anxiety symptoms including jumpiness and agitation. Moms, especially those who are breastfeeding, are often not drinking adequate amounts of water (at least eight, 8 oz glasses of water a day or more).

Treatment

Postpartum anxiety is temporary and treatable with professional help. If you feel you may be suffering from this illness, know that it is not your fault and you are not to blame. You can find more resources on our Crisis and Warm Lines page and Family and Partner Resources page. We understand what you are going through and will connect you to people who understand and can help.

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