How to Tell If You Have Common Mom-Related Anxiety or Postpartum Anxiety

The day after my second child was born, a pediatrician came up to us and offered to give him one of the vaccinations. “Will it make him cry?” – I asked, and when she said that maybe I told her that no, I would completely explode if he cried at that particular moment. She looked at the completely serene child, and I, sitting calmly in the chair, shrugged my shoulders and told me to get it next week. I’m sure we looked good, but it was not significant. Weeping barbs were my business back then.

Nothing scores like having a baby. The feeling of constant, restrained foreboding disappeared within a couple of weeks. For other women, concerns about the mother in childbirth can intensify, dominating their thoughts and overshadowing all the joy of having a baby.

What’s confusing is knowing when the usual baby blues (which has to go through) turns into ongoing depression, or when mild nervousness (“Should he wear a sweater?”) Turns into obsessive, frightening thoughts about, say, your a child who is freezing. death. To understand how to distinguish routine new parenting concerns from postpartum anxiety, I spoke with Kristen Raines, a psychiatric nurse practitioner who has been with the University of North Carolina’s Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders Program for the past 12 years. …

Please note that if you are anxious or depressed postpartum, talk to your doctor or call the Postpartum Support International hotline for resources to get help. If you are thinking of hurting yourself or your child, call an ambulance right away.

Forget “Normal”

“I hesitate to use the word ‘ normal’ because there is nothing ‘normal’ about the perinatal period,” she said. “There is a really fine line here. By definition, perinatal anxiety should disappear within two weeks, but this is obviously not always the case. Things don’t always go the way they should, and that doesn’t necessarily mean [the mother] needs treatment. ” New parenting is inherently an anxiety-provoking stage in life, and “new parents will always fear the unknown.” However, there are symptoms that Raines points out that indicate that the mother needs help.

Visualizations and obsessions

There are several rules of thumb that Raines uses to determine if someone needs support or treatment for postpartum anxiety. “When anxiety begins to interfere with your daily activities , when it controls your life more than fleeting worry, that is my [criterion] when I decide to heal.” For example, if you are afraid of going outside or letting your child out of your sight, this could indicate that your anxiety has escalated to an unreasonable level.

And if the anxiety persists for more than two weeks , she says, “It’s important to talk to your doctor about what’s going on.” It’s okay to worry, for example, about whether a baby (especially a nursing baby) is eating enough, but if these concerns become overwhelming if you sit all night watching the baby instead of sleeping when the baby is asleep, for example, exactly then Raines gets sick.

“What we find with perinatal anxiety is intrusive thoughts ,” says Raines. “The mother is worried,“ What if I fall down the stairs and drop the child? “But this is not a normal idea about it.” Most moms will have fleeting fears, such as when the baby will slip under the water while bathing, but they will be able to move on by convincing themselves that this is unlikely and they will take care of it.

“But it could be that they can’t think of anything else,” Raines says. They cannot stop visualizing the drowning child. (I had a friend whose husband lifted the baby over his head to the ceiling fan – but actually nowhere near the ceiling fan – and she couldn’t stop visualizing the baby stuck in the fan rotors.) “They can’t function anymore – they can’t drive a car because what if the baby is crying? What if they crash? “This is a strong sign that a young mother should seek help.

Obsessive defensive behavior and anxiety

Raines describes a patient she visited at home: “There was a bottle of Purell on every table in her house. Wherever you took a step, you had to remove Purella’s hands. ”She had another patient who was a marine biologist; the woman was obsessed with the idea that an amoeba would climb up her nose and eat her brain. These things, of course, seem absurd to outsider, but are a source of constant suffering for the anxiety sufferer – after all, can anyone promise you that the amoeba wo n’t eat your brain? That you won’t get into an accident when you’re driving your baby?

Another common concern is “ concern about what’s going on ,” Raines says. “Worry about the death of her husband or that someone will come to the window and take the child. It could be a dark circle spiraling downward. “

Major red flags

I asked Raines for her number one red flag. “It scares me that the patient says she hasn’t slept for three days .” Obviously, sleep is not an easy task for people with newborns, especially if you are breastfeeding and / or lack support, but if you cannot sleep at all for several days, even when the baby is asleep, “this makes the hairs on the back of your head stand on end “Says Raines. “In most psychotic patients I see, it was a provocative factor – they stopped sleeping.”

Other things to watch out for are when the mother starts to say something like, “ You will all be better off without me, ” or “This child will be better off without me,” or “I’m not the right mother for this child. … “Raines says,” That doesn’t necessarily mean she’s psychotic or that she has to go to the hospital, but she’s starting to detach, “and that needs attention. “Or, if she is not attached to the child, she does not want to take care of him at all. This is not a wake-up call, but she needs help. “

Finally, Raines says she is bothered by behavior that does not match her personality , or “strange conversations.” She refers to a patient who took the child for an examination and then stopped at a shop for three gallons of ice cream – the woman’s husband said it was completely out of character for her. Or if someone is not particularly religious, they start using a lot of religious references, if they talk a lot about God or Satan, for example, “This child is just Satan within me.” “If that’s not their norm, the hair on the back of my head will stand on end,” says Raines.

What to do

This can be difficult for family members or partners, especially if the mother is irritable or angry. Raines suggests asking her to talk to her healthcare provider or seeking help from postpartum support . (Again, if this is an emergency and you are worried that the mother might harm herself or the baby, go to the hospital.) There are inpatient hospitals, such as the one Raines works for in North Carolina, and medications, but Raines stresses. that “Most women just need someone to talk to,” and these medications are usually not the first line of defense. “We start with education – this is a temporary problem. We let them know that they are not alone, there is help in this, and that this is the result of fluctuating hormones. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can help reformulate [obsessive or obsessive] thoughts. “

Perinatal anxiety ranges from mild to severe, and mothers on the mild end of the spectrum benefit from leaving the house, any exercise, and social interaction. Raines recommends exercise for new moms like Fit for Moms if you have a franchise near you; many gyms often have childcare or parent-to-child classes. At the very least, she suggests going to the mailbox every day – even little exercise and fresh air can help prevent anxiety and depression. And Eat and Drink Regularly: Raines reminds new moms to eat a high protein snack, like cheese sticks or some almonds, every time they feed their baby, because low blood sugar can exacerbate anxiety.

If you are a partner or family member of a young mom with postpartum anxiety or depression, remember that social support from friends and family is critical. Raines says she often invites parents-to-be to ask a friend to set up a meal trip or visitation schedule when the baby is born – both for social interaction and something else. And if grandparents are not around or they cannot help, she recommends (if financially possible) chiping into a postpartum doula to help the mother for several weeks after giving birth. ( DONA International is a good place to start looking for a doula.)

Reins said the most important thing is to find a safe place to talk and know that it will get better: “Women hear all the scary things, but not only that” everything will be fine. ” Everything will be alright. There are resources. “

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