Moms can (and will) find a million things to worry about when their baby arrives. It's a normal emotion for all new parents. Unfortunately, too much worry can leave you susceptible to a serious case of postpartum anxiety, or PPA. The good news is that there are some ways to stave off anxiety as a new mom.
Even if this isn't your first rodeo, the birth of a new child can turn your world upside-down. You have to develop new routines and sleep patterns. The time you had to devote to your spouse, friends, relatives, chores, hobbies, and other children gets divided up into that much smaller of a piece. You may find yourself forgoing all of your normal stress-busting activities – hanging out with your friends, exercising, reading – either because you can't fit it in to your schedule or because you feel guilty doing anything other than dedicating every moment of your life to your infant.
As many seasoned moms will tell you, putting your physical and emotional health on the back burner is a recipe for disaster and an invitation for anxiety to take over your life. Here are some of the ways you can help stave off anxiety as a new mother.
1. Learn As Much As You Can Before The Baby Arrives
A lot of a new moms' fear and anxiety comes from the unknown. "Why is she crying?" "How do I know if she's full?" "Do I need to take her to the doctor for a diaper rash?" You won't find every answer in a book, but having a good foundation of knowledge prior to your baby's arrival can prepare you to handle the little things that otherwise can pile up into the straw that breaks mama's back.
2. Ask For Help When You Need It
Don't trick yourself into believing that you have to handle everything on your own. You don't need to be the exclusively breastfeeding mom with the spotless house, perfectly coiffed hairdo, expertly winged eyeliner, who makes four-course meals from scratch every night and is ready to get it on with her spouse at a moment's notice. If that's you, go on with your bad self, and please, share your secret wisdom. But, for most of us, this is simply an unrealistic goal.
"It's always stressful to be a Super Parent," Carrie Wendel-Hummell, a doctoral candidate in sociology at the University of Kansas, told Today Parents. " Stress is always a risk factor for depression and anxiety, and it's especially stressful if people don't have the supports that they need." Don't be afraid to ask for, and accept, help from those around you.
3. Learn To Say "No"
Being a new mom is, in and of itself, a full-time job. But, there are people around you who will view your maternity leave as "vacation time" asking you for favors like, "Can you take Grandma to her eye appointment tomorrow?" or "Will you help stuff 2000 envelopes for the annual PTA gala?" Although an occasional deviation form your everyday routine is good for you, you don't have to agree to give of your time at every request. This will only increase your risk of becoming overwhelmed which can leave you susceptible to postpartum anxiety.
4. Get Enough Sleep
I know it's difficult, but it's extremely important to get enough sleep as a new mom. It's normal to want to clean the house while the baby naps, or stay up to watch a movie after the baby falls asleep. But, according to Postpartum Progress, good judgment and concentration decline in sleep-deprived mothers and put them at greater risk for postpartum depression. Additionally, mothers who don't sleep at night may be putting their baby's sleep quality at risk because infants tend to adopt their mothers' circadian sleep rhythms.
5. Get Regular Exercise
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), researchers found that those who exercised regularly were 25 percent less likely to develop depression or an anxiety disorder over the next five years. As soon as you can, get your body moving again. Take your baby on a stroll, break out that new jogging stroller, or join a mommy and baby yoga class.
6. Do What Works Best For You
You're going to get a lot of advice from people who feel that they know everything there is to know about parenting, and sometimes their advice is truly genius. But other times, it just doesn't work for you. Don't try to please everyone by following every piece of parenting advice you receive, especially if it doesn't feel good or natural to you.
7. Take A Break
Don't wait until you're so starved for alone time that you begin to panic. Schedule a little bit of "me time" into your life the same way you would schedule a doctor's appointment or a business meeting.
8. Talk To A Professional
If you are worried about postpartum anxiety or depression, whether due to a preexisting condition or hereditary factors, consider making an appointment with a mental health professional prior to the birth of your baby. According to U.S. News & World Report, 10 percent of all new moms are diagnosed with postpartum anxiety. A therapist or psychologist with experience in postpartum mood disorders can help you work through your fears and teach you exercises to cope with or even prevent the onset of PPD or PPA.