What You Need to Know About Postpartum Anxiety and Depression


August 31, 2023


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Postpartum anxiety and depression are two very real experiences for mothers (and fathers) but are rarely openly talked about. Instead of keeping quiet, I’ve decided to highlight several things you (and others) should know and hopefully help this be a less taboo subject. Both postpartum anxiety and depression fall under the same umbrella of Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders, or PMAD.

What is postpartum anxiety?

First and foremost, it is quite normal to feel a little anxious and a bit of anxiety about welcoming a new baby into the world – no matter how many children you have. The red flags are raised when these feelings become stressful, overwhelming, and begin to interfere with everyday life or living. 

Postpartum anxiety is a mood disorder that should never be overlooked or brushed under the rug. But sadly, many moms cover their symptoms or don’t quite realize that what they are feeling is beyond normal. In most cases, postpartum anxiety should be monitored and treated by a healthcare professional.

If you experience any of the following thoughts or experiences, I highly recommend talking to your doctor:

  • Constant, uncontrollable worrying.
  • Irrational fears.
  • Changes in sleep. 
  • A drop or reduction in appetite.
  • Discomfort physically.

It should also be noted that postpartum anxiety is not the same as generalized anxiety. PPA is always directly correlated to having recently had a baby and can present itself up to 12 months after having a child. It also affects up to 21% of new parents, and, parents of multiples can experience this type of anxiety as well. Keep in mind that PPA can last several weeks up to years.

common symptoms of postpartum anxiety

What is postpartum depression?

Although similar to the aforementioned, postpartum depression often gets more attention than any other perinatal mood disorder. While some people refer to this as the baby blues, it is often much more than that. Anxiety can be a side effect, but not everyone who is depressed shows signs of anxiety.

What sets postpartum depression apart from postpartum anxiety are the following characteristics:

  • Excessive sadness.
  • Crying frequently and uncontrollably.
  • Feeling emotionally numb.

It is important to distinguish between the two, which is why a professional should always be involved. There are different treatments and programs depending on what signs the mother is showing and some treatments don’t respond if not diagnosed appropriately.

differences between baby blues, postpartum anxiety and postpartum depression

Possible Causes of Postpartum Anxiety and Depression

There are several key factors that have been identified as possible causes of postpartum anxiety and depression. Some of the most common causes are associated with the change in hormones after giving birth. The mother’s body has spent the last 9 months changing to carry a growing baby and once the baby is born, it begins the process of returning back to pre-baby norm.

Another cause is lack of sleep due to waking every few hours to feed the baby, change its diaper, and get used to a new schedule. Last but not least, the overall stress of taking care of a baby, changes in relationships, and ongoing advice from others can take its toll on a new mother (or a mother of multiples having a new baby). 

Treating Postpartum Anxiety and Depression

When it comes to treating these forms of PMADs, there are several ways to go about it. The most common way is to speak with your primary care manager to get assessed and diagnosed. From there, they will suggest the needed level of care. Some moms only need non-medicated treatments such as counseling, support groups, or a healthy lifestyle change.

In the event that the diagnosis is worse, the doctor may prescribe medication to help level out any chemical and/or hormonal imbalances. Medicated treatments are never meant to be taken long term and instead should be used in conjunction with a lifestyle plan for total healing.

how to manage postpartum depression and anxiety infographic

Final Thoughts

Postpartum anxiety and depression are two forms of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders that should always be taken seriously. If you’re ever unsure as to whether or not you should seek help, monitor your behavior, thoughts, actions, etc. You can also ask someone close to you to do the same and report to you what they find. These should never be brushed under the rug or seen as normal. Never be afraid or embarrassed to seek help. You and your baby are worth it!

postpartum depression infographic

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