The first few months after having a baby were some of the most emotionally intense I've ever experienced. From the terrible nightmares to the unrelenting worry to the tightness in my chest, the pain was never ending. Little did I know I was showing early signs of postpartum anxiety, or PPA. It can de difficult to discern when everyday, common worries cross over into the realm of something more serious, especially when you've just been through a life-changing experience like becoming a mother. But if you're in tune with what is normal for you, it may be easier to pick up on the signs that something is off, even if they're subtle at first.
As psychologist Jonathan Abramowitz told Parents magazine, postpartum anxiety is a hidden disorder, because it is often unrecognized and undiagnosed, meaning symptoms are often written off as a response to the new role as mother, and don't receive proper treatment. However, the condition has received more research and attention recently, making health care professionals more vigilant in pinpointing signs of PPA in their patients. According to Psychology Today, moms with PPA experience intense anxiety and worried feelings starting immediately after the birth as well as gradually over the first year of their baby's life, which makes recognizing these 12 early signs the key to getting an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
1. You Have Constant, Little Worries
Worrying comes with the territory when you're a parent, but if all the fretting and fear starts to snowball, it may mean more than some healthy concern. When a new mama is experiencing constant worry, it's a sign of postpartum anxiety, according to the website for Postpartum Support International.
2. You Can't Regulate Your Body Temperature
Can't seem to find a good setting on your internal thermostat? It could be an early sign of PPA. According to Baby Center, a physical symptoms of postpartum anxiety is experiencing flashes of hot and/or cold body temperature. This can also be due to hormonal changes, but if it persists in conjunction with other symptoms, it's likely to be anxiety-related.
3. You Have Trouble Sleeping
This may be a symptom that's difficult to spot as postpartum anxiety since new mothers all struggle to get adequate sleep. However, if you just can't seem to sleep, or struggle with insomnia, talk to your doctor about postpartum anxiety, as Parents magazine suggested.
4. You Have Glimmers Of Scary Thoughts
They may pop up slowly and quietly at first, but disturbing thoughts could be more than passing subconscious renderings. The Center For Women's Mood Disorders on UNC School of Medicine's website reported that "repeated thoughts or images of frightening things happening to the baby," means you're experiencing postpartum anxiety.
5. You Can't Concentrate
Can't stay focused for very long since having a baby? It could be a symptom to watch. As the website for the American Pregnancy Association explained, if you have consistent trouble focusing and can't seem to snap out of it, it's possible you have postpartum anxiety.
6. You Feel Like You're Living In Chaos
Having a newborn doesn't leave much time for organization and order, but if a niggling sense of chaos starts to stick around, it's time to take notice. When normal feelings of stress escalate to feeling out of control after becoming a new mom, it's a sign of postpartum anxiety, as Psychology Today pointed out.
7. You're Scared To Screw Up
Real talk: no parent knows how to do everything right and it's unavoidable to feel like you're going to screw things up every now and then. But constantly worrying that if you do something wrong your baby will get hurt is a sign of postpartum anxiety, according to U.S. News and World Report's website.
8. You're Short Of Breath
Ever feel a tightness in your chest, almost like it's hard to exhale? It could me more than allergies or asthma. Finding it hard to breathe, or being short on breath is a red flag that you're experiencing postpartum anxiety, according to Baby Center.
9. You're Not In The Mood For Food
Changes in your appetite can be common in the postpartum stage, due to hormonal changes and breastfeeding, but if something feels off in addition to not wanting to chow down as much, look into in further. Experiencing loss of appetite in conjunction with other postpartum anxiety symptoms, according to Postpartum Support International.
10. You're Extra Sensitive
No mama wants to feel like her skills are being judged, and worrying over your parenting performance may start to become an issue. As Baby Center pointed out, it could be a sign of PPA if you worry excessively about being criticized for your parenting skills or feel like you don't have support.
11. You Are Overwhelmed By Parenting
Parenting is overwhelming, but there should be some natural peaks and valleys for balance. As the website Psychotherapy.com cautioned, having an excessive amount of fear about your new role means PPA may have kicked in. Even if you've never struggled with anxiety before, be on the look out for this sign that PPA is coming on early.
12. You Fear Death
Images of the grim reaper popping up out of nowhere? A suddenly new or increased worry and/or fear death is a symptom of postpartum anxiety, as Baby Center pointed out.