Treating Your Postpartum Anxiety Is Possible — Here's What You Should Know

by Mishal Ali Zafar

Not every mom comes home with her newborn baby feeling like a million bucks. One of by best friends found herself frustrated and confused in the days following her baby’s birth, and the shame of her feelings held her back from talking about it. With some convincing, she finally discussed it with her doctor and found she was suffering from postpartum anxiety. With some support and medication, she began feeling better. But if you’ve been diagnosed with this stressful condition, you might want to know, is postpartum anxiety curable?

While there may not be a miracle cure for anxiety of any kind, there are ways to manage and treat postpartum anxiety than can make you feel better. In an interview with Romper, Dr. Kenneth James, OB-GYN at MemorialCare Saddleback Medical Center in Laguna Hills, California says that postpartum anxiety is a common problem that he sees in his patients everyday, but fortunately it is absolutely treatable.

If you have heard about postpartum depression, or PPD, you should know that it is not the same as postpartum anxiety. According to Ohio Health, the drastic change in estrogen and progesterone levels after birth can lead to the baby blues, but the severity and duration of the symptoms can differ. With postpartum anxiety, the website explained your symptoms would include anxiety that decreases with support and reassurance, along with temporary sadness, anger, uncertainty, and disappointment. Postpartum depression, the website noted, can be similar but more intense, where mothers can even feel the desire to harm themselves or their babies.

If you’ve dealt with anxiety or depression in the past, you might have a higher chance of developing postpartum anxiety. James explains that commonly, moms with postpartum anxiety often have an underlying disorder that is accentuated by pregnancy and delivery. “I tell all my patients that pregnancy is easy and delivery is easy,” says James, “but the baby is the hard part, so you should prepare yourself physically, emotionally, and medically.”

Every new mom feels anxious at one time or another because the pressure and exhaustion of taking care of a newborn can be unexpected and overwhelming. But how do you know if it is postpartum anxiety or not? One way to recognize postpartum anxiety, notes James, is to gauge whether or not your anxiety is affecting your ability to care for your newborn. Parents mentioned that if your anxiety is causing you to fear doing everyday tasks with your baby, causes you to panic about irrational ideas, or if you have sudden panic attacks, you may be suffering from postpartum anxiety.

James says that as with any other disorder, the first issue is to recognize that there is a problem, and the second is to call for help. If you are suffering from postpartum blues, he recommends that you should be treated by a therapist, not just an OB-GYN. “I often start my patients with a referral to a therapist,” says James, “either traditional or alternative, prior to starting treatment and medication.” You can see a psychologist, psychiatrist, counselor, or hypnotherapist, and James also suggests calling your hospital to see if they can refer you to a therapist or outpatient postpartum therapy group.

The first step towards treating postpartum anxiety is getting help, says James, and you can start by asking your friends, family, or nanny to help take care of the baby. Your doctor may even prescribe you anxiety medications that can help. “Medications work as well,” he notes, “especially if the mom has experienced anxiety in the past where medications were the only treatment.”

As a new mother, the last thing you need is your anxiety to get in the way of taking care of your baby. Luckily, postpartum anxiety can be temporary, so with the right support and treatment, you’ll be able to embrace motherhood a little more easily.

Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.