Giving birth and bringing your baby home is supposed to be a magical time in your life. There are times, however, when your emotions don't match how you intellectually know you should be feeling. Some new moms struggle with long bouts of sadness and anxiety related to childbirth which can be attributed to mood disorders, such as postpartum depression (PPD), and its lesser known counterpart, postpartum anxiety (PPA). Unfortunately, there are still a lot of myths about postpartum anxiety that can be confusing to new moms.
Some amount of anxiety can be expected when you experience a big change in your life. But with PPA, the anxiety is all-consuming and overwhelming. Baby Center noted that new moms with PPA have recurring and long term feelings of intense worry or panic. But because some amount of anxiety is expected, it can be mislabeled and go undiagnosed. In fact, a study in Pediatrics of over 1100 new mothers found that 17 percent of moms showed symptoms of postpartum anxiety. Yet oftentimes, moms try to work through their emotions alone because they fear that doctors will act as if they are over reacting.
Here are some myths you may have heard about postpartum anxiety that are definitely not true.
Myth #1: PPA Is The Same As 'Baby Blues'
Baby blues is a mild, brief bout of depression in contrast to PPA, which is a long lasting, more severe mood disorder, according to Baby Center. The Illinois Department of Public Health reported that around 50 percent of women will get the baby blues while only 10 to 20 percent of new moms will experience PPA.
Myth #2: PPA Will Go Away On Its Own
According to Parents, if left untreated, postpartum anxiety can interfere with your ability to bond with your baby. Additionally, the study in Pediatrics linked untreated PPA to reduced breastfeeding duration. A psychologist who specializes in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help you develop the skills you need to change the thinking and behavior patterns that lead to anxiety.
Myth #3: If You Have PPA You Will Also Get PPD
According to the UNC Chapel Hill Medical School's Center for Women's Mood Disorders, postpartum anxiety and postpartum depression are two different diagnoses. Although it's not uncommon for one to coincide with the other, not all women with one condition will have the other.
Myth #4: If You Don't Get PPA Immediately, You're In The Clear
Although many new moms have symptoms of PPA that begin immediately after the birth, it is not uncommon for these feelings to begin later and increase gradually over the first year of their baby's life, according to Psychology Today.
Myth #5: You Can't Take Medicine To Treat PPA While You Are Nursing
According to Postpartum Progress, SSRI medication (like Zoloft) and benzodiazepines (like Klonopin) are usually very helpful in treating PPA and known to be safe for breastfeeding moms.
Myth #6: PPA Doesn't Require A Diagnosis
Although it's true that most moms experience some form of anxiety, moms with PPA suffer with severe and irrational bouts of panic that doesn't just go away at the end of the day. According to Parents, hormonal shifts related to childbirth, topped with sleep deprivation can trigger PPA in women who are already susceptible.
Myth #7: Moms With PPA Will Harm Their Children
Another reason new moms are afraid to seek treatment for their PPA, is because of the stigma that moms with postpartum mood disorders are unhinged and will harm their children or themselves. The Pacific Post Partum Support Society noted that these events have been falsely attributed to postpartum depression and anxiety, and the mothers were more likely suffering from postpartum psychosis.