Postpartum Anxiety

 

While having a child is a beautiful and exciting moment, it can also be a stressful and confusing time for new mothers. As many 11-21% of new mothers struggle with postpartum anxiety. This condition can cause distress and make caring for a new baby more difficult. At TMS & Brain Health, we work with you to build a personalized treatment plan that can include a number of alternative treatment options best suited for your goals and needs.

What is postpartum anxiety?

 

Many people have heard of postpartum depression, or PPD; postpartum anxiety is a similar condition. While it is common to have worries and feel overwhelmed in the period following childbirth, people with postpartum anxiety may experience excessive worry or obsessive thoughts concerning the baby. This level of anxiety is more intense than typical worrying and may last for most of the day. Postpartum anxiety can significantly interfere with quality of life and a mother’s ability to care for their child. Most often, anxiety starts right after childbirth, but symptoms can begin during pregnancy or when the baby is several months old.

Signs and Symptoms of Postpartum Anxiety

 

It can be difficult to identify postpartum anxiety because it’s normal for new mothers to have anxiety and worries about their baby. One of the key indicators of postpartum anxiety is extreme or excessive worry that feels like it never stops and interferes with your ability to calm down. Some other common signs include:
– Irrational fears or feeling constantly on edge
– Being afraid to leave your baby alone for a few minutes with your spouse or a trusted adult
– Staying awake all night out of fear that the baby will stop breathing in their sleep
– Avoiding leaving the house out of fear that someone will hurt you or the child

Some mothers might experience panic attacks or obsessive-compulsive symptoms. This is another strong indicator of postpartum anxiety.

Having constant anxiety takes a toll on your physical wellbeing. Some of the physical symptoms of postpartum anxiety can include:
– Disrupted sleep or insomnia
– Heart palpitations or increased heart rate
– Stomach aches or nausea
– Shortness of breath
– Loss of appetite
– Difficulty sitting still
– Muscle tension

There are also a number of emotional and behavioral symptoms you might notice:
– Irritability
– Inability to relax
– Racing or obsessive thoughts, often about worst-case scenarios
– Difficulty focusing
– Forgetfulness
– Avoiding certain situations, people, or activities
– Checking things over and over again
– Being overly cautious about situations that aren’t dangerous
– Being overly controlling

What Causes Postpartum Anxiety?

 

There are many factors that contribute to a new mother developing postpartum anxiety. Many of the common factors are related to the dramatic changes that occur surrounding childbirth:
– Changes in hormones: The sharp decrease in hormones following delivery can cause changes in mood or make you more susceptible to stress
– Lack of sleep: Caring for a newborn baby is a 24-hour job and many new mothers suffer from sleep deprivation, especially in the first week.
– Stressful events: Having a newborn is a long-anticipated event and there can be a lot of stress around various milestones or events. Things like issues with breastfeeding and a difficult pregnancy or delivery can be distressing.
– Feelings of responsibility: Many new mothers feel overwhelmed with feelings of needing to protect and care for their baby.

There are a number of factors that can increase one’s risk for developing postpartum anxiety. These include:
– Family or personal history of anxiety or depression
– Previous loss of a child or pregnancy loss
– History of eating disorders
– Caring for multiple children
– Having a child with health conditions
– Lacking a support network after childbirth

Treatment Options for Postpartum Anxiety

 

Antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications are often prescribed for postpartum anxiety. However, many mothers who are breastfeeding may prefer not to take medication. There are many treatment options for postpartum anxiety that don’t involve a daily medication.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT is a type of therapy that aims to change negative patterns of thinking and behavior by teaching people to identify and change distorted thoughts and to develop coping skills to manage their anxiety. It involves identifying and challenging negative thoughts, learning coping skills and relaxation techniques, and gradually exposing the person to their feared situations in a controlled way.

Zulresso: Zulresso is the first medication to be FDA-approved to treat postpartum depression. Administered via IV over 60 continuous hours, Zulresso is extremely effective in providing lasting relief for PPD symptoms and may be helpful for relieving some symptoms of anxiety as well. 

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS): TMS is a non-invasive brain stimulation process that triggers neural activity with magnetic pulses. This treatment is FDA-approved and is used to treat a variety of conditions including depression and anxiety. Side effects of TMS can include feeling a knocking sensation or scalp sensitivity during treatment, as well as mild headache that subsides within a few hours.

Ketamine: Ketamine is a medication that is being increasingly used as a treatment for depression and anxiety. It is known for its unique ability to promote neuroplasticity and cause lasting changes in brain chemistry, which can lead to transformative change and long-term symptom relief. In 2019, the esketamine nasal spray (called Spravato) became FDA-approved. At TMS & Brain Health, we offer a range of ketamine treatment methods, including infusions, Spravato, intramuscular shots, and rapid-dissolve tablets.

Neurofeedback: Neurofeedback, or biofeedback, is a non-invasive process that uses real-time feedback to help a person learn to self-regulate their brain activity. It involves measuring brain waves using sensors placed on the scalp, and then providing feedback to the person through a visual or auditory display. The person is then able to learn to control their brain activity by making changes to their thoughts and behaviors in response to the feedback. A number of studies have shown that neurofeedback is a promising treatment option for anxiety disorders.

 

There are also many strategies mothers can take to reduce anxiety symptoms naturally:

  • Cuddle your baby (a lot!): Giving your child physical attention releases oxytocin which can help naturally calm you.
  • Spend time with other mothers: Connecting with other mothers can help to calm some worries and fears and validate your emotions.
  • Increase physical activity: Although caring for a newborn is already a physically taxing job, physical activity releases hormones that can significantly reduce anxiety. Exercises that incorporate mindful breathing, such as yoga, can be especially helpful.
  • Try to maximize sleep: Seek help from your partner or another caretaker to take shifts during the night to feed the baby. Sleeping in a separate room may be helpful; you should try to get at least one four-hour stretch of uninterrupted sleep every night. Be mindful of your caffeine intake.
  • Ask for help: Taking care of a baby is more than a full-time job; it’s okay to get help from others, whether it be for caretaking or household chores.

TMS & Brain Health Helps You Overcome Anxiety

 

Postpartum anxiety can be distressing, but mothers can find relief with social support, therapy, or other treatment options. At TMS & Brain Health, we always begin with a comprehensive evaluation to learn about your symptoms, lifestyle, and overall health. Then, after we diagnose your condition and understand your needs, we create a personalized treatment plan to relieve your symptoms and help you get back to focusing on and connecting with your child. Our treatment plans can include a number of traditional therapies and group therapies, as well as treatment alternatives like TMS, Zulresso, ketamine, and neurofeedback.

If anxiety is disrupting your quality of life, call TMS & Brain Health or request a consultation online today.

Find out if our treatment programs are right for you

Let us help you today!

TMS & Brain Health is not a healthcare provider and does not render any psychiatry or other medical services, including but not limited to TMS, Ketamine, or Neurofeedback. IOP services are rendered through a separate, affiliated entity. Rather, TMS & Brain Health performs administrative services for various psychiatrists and/or psychiatry and/or medical practices.  Further, this website does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. More information can be found at our disclaimer page.