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Beyond the Baby Blues: Experiencing Postpartum Anxiety

I just had a baby, I’m supposed to be happy, what’s wrong with me?

My body is a mess, I feel so tired all the time, and now I can’t sleep. My mind won’t stop running.

I love my baby, I really do, so why am I having these scary thoughts of harming them or myself that come out of nowhere?

Have you ever had thoughts like this? You aren’t alone.

The message that birthing parents get from society is that we’re supposed to feel nothing but joy at the birth of a baby. New babies are delightful, even miraculous, and the process of welcoming one into our lives is often life changing. For many people there is a tremendous amount of happiness. And yet, for some of us the feelings are more complicated. What if you don’t feel that overwhelming sense of joy as you adjust to new parenthood?

Well, you aren’t alone. Many, many, people suffer from depression and anxiety after the birth of a baby (and sometimes during pregnancy too). Research says that around 8-20% of birthing parents experience postpartum anxiety (PSI, 2023). Because we’ve been told that we should be happy that can make it even harder to let others know how you are feeling and ask for help. Shame can keep us silent, and that’s no good for anyone, mom or baby.

Postpartum anxiety can include feeling as though you can’t control your worry. For example, sometimes you are so worried about your baby’s health that you can’t think of anything else. Or you might find yourself unable to slow down and sleep, so even when someone watches your baby your mind won’t quiet enough for you to rest. Maybe you are having trouble concentrating or find yourself extra irritable with people around you. Often people experience intrusive thoughts, which can really be scary. These are unwanted ideas that come into our minds, for example thoughts of harming your child or yourself, and then vanish. You know you don’t want to act on them, but those thoughts can be frightening, nonetheless.

There is hope for these feelings of anxiety. You can feel better with support. Counseling for anxiety is a great way to tackle some of these challenges. You might also find that a support group for birthing parents who are struggling with similar concerns could be helpful. Sometimes a discussion with a medical doctor about medications may be useful. You aren’t the only one feeling this way and there is a lot of good help available!

It can be scary to voice your feelings, to acknowledge what might be going on for you. Having a baby, whether it’s number one or number 12 is a major change in our lives. As a society we don’t usually support new parents very well and that can leave you feeling isolated. Feel free to reach out today to connect for counseling. It can help you to feel seen and understood, which can feel like a lifeline.

There are also online resources I recommend exploring the Postpartum Support International website for some great resources and virtual support groups.

Thanks for reading,

Dr Wolff

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Kara E. Wolff, PhD
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