The perinatal period (the time from pregnancy through one year after giving birth) is full of ups and downs. We often hear about postpartum depression, but not as much as postpartum anxiety or anxiety during pregnancy. It is common for women to experience perinatal anxiety during their pregnancy and after they give birth. It can be exhausting and scary at times.
A mom might have uncontrolled and excessive worry about multiple things such as fear of making wrong choices from the overwhelming amount of options with parenting, if baby is eating enough, why baby isn’t sleeping well, if baby is breathing, or what if something happens to the baby.
A subset of perinatal anxiety is perinatal OCD where intrusive thoughts of harm to the baby will come up. These thoughts and images are especially scary because the mother knows these thoughts and images are irrational, but they won’t go away.
Every parent experiences some sense of worry on and off during and after pregnancy.
However, perinatal anxiety looks a little different. It can lead to somatic issues such as stomach aches, headaches, irritability, or a racing heart. It can be difficult to eat and sleep due to racing thoughts. You might be experiencing panic attacks.
When these symptoms are consistently present for several weeks or months, there’s a high probability that clinical anxiety is present. All these things can make it difficult to function as you normally would during pregnancy or after having a baby.
Some risk factors for perinatal anxiety include:
- Fear of not knowing what will happen when baby arrives.
- Fear of miscarriage.
- Having a baby earlier than expected and not feeling ready.
- Baby having to stay in the NICU.
- Fear of making the wrong choice from so many options.
- A traumatic birth.
- A personal or family history of anxiety.
- Perfectionistic tendencies.
In the book “Good Moms have Scary Thoughts,” the author Karen Kleinman normalizes the thoughts that many mothers experience and may be too afraid to say out loud. Through the use of comics, Kleinman concisely explores the feelings of new and expectant mothers without judgement in an easy to read format (because as a new mother, who has time to read?!). The book also provides ways to address these thoughts to help in the healing process.
The podcast “Mom and Mind” also addresses challenges that mothers face from preconception through new motherhood. Dr. Katayune Kaeni interviews guests who share their stories and challenges firsthand, creating a space for mothers to know that they are not alone. She also wrote, “The Calm Pregnancy Workbook” to give expectant moms practical strategies to address their anxiety through the use of mindfulness and CBT.
Therapy is also an important way to address perinatal anxiety.
It’s best to work with a therapist that specializes in working with parents during the perinatal period. Therapists with this specialty will have a PMH-C (Perinatal Mental Health Certified) as part of their title. When you work with a therapist that specializes in perinatal mental health, you will have an individualized plan to help you in the recovery process.
Finding connection with other moms can also be a helpful part of healing. Joining a Parent and Me group can help in normalizing the struggles that other moms are going through. It helps to know that you are not alone.
Remember, that perinatal anxiety is common, and you are not alone. With support, recovery is possible!
If you are looking for support and live in California or Texas, please contact me for a free 15 minute chat to see if we would be a good fit in working together.
Please note that this article is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice from a doctor or mental health professional. In this article, I recommend several resources. I am not an affiliate and do not receive any compensation for my recommendations. I just like them and hope they can support you in your journey.