What is Postpartum Anxiety?

Annie Shaltz, NP
Nurse Practitioner
Medically Reviewed
October 4, 2020

You’re just hormonal… You’re just sleep -deprived… You just need to relax… It’s all in your head… These are just some of the things women with postpartum anxiety hear when they try to talk about their feelings. But here’s the thing—it’s not “just” any of those things, and it’s certainly not all in their head.

If you’ve never heard the term postpartum anxiety (PPA) you’re not alone. This mental health mood disorder is the nasty sister of postpartum depression (PPD), and many people within the medical community aren’t even aware of it. Why is that? Unlike postpartum depression, which has been well-studied, there has not been substantial research devoted to postpartum anxiety. The lack of research means that there is no screening tool like there is for postpartum depression and so it gets missed by OBs, midwives, and primary care providers who are seeing women in the postpartum period.

It’s normal to have worries as a new mom—after all, a mother's main job is to love, nurture, and protect their children, and with that comes a great responsibility. But if you’re wondering what is considered normal worry versus something that might require you or someone you know to seek professional help for PPA, there is a distinction.

The main difference is being able to differentiate between a potential risk or threat, versus a threat that is not real. For women with PPA, their body and mind are in overdrive with intrusive and unrealistic thoughts. Women with PPA feel overwhelmed by simple tasks, are anxious, resentful, irritable, and angry. It can be a clue that you need something: support, reassurance, appreciation, rest, validation, connection, or meaningful stimulation.

Postpartum anxiety can occur any time in the first two years of your child’s life. For many mothers it starts later on, around five to seven months postpartum, well after you’ve seen your OB or midwife for screening and a postpartum assessment. How long it lasts usually depends on the person and whether or not she gets the treatment and support she needs.

Postpartum anxiety symptoms

  • Agitation
  • Irritability
  • Increased concern about her own health and/or the health of her baby
  • Changes in appetite/ weight
  • Having a hard time falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Constant worry
  • Difficulty sitting still
  • Increased heart rate
  • Racing/ intrusive thoughts
  • Sensitive/ overactive to touch
  • Shortness of breath
  • Stress when leaving the house with baby
  • Inability to trust anyone else to care for your baby (including your partner)
  • Feeling overwhelmed to complete simple tasks
Annie Shaltz, NP
Nurse Practitioner

Annie Shaltz, NP, is a board-certified Adult-Gerontological Primary Care Nurse Practitioner. She earned her master’s degree from NYU as a nurse practitioner with a holistic specialization, which exposed her to a wide array of healing modalities, including functional medicine. Annie marries her clinical expertise with her holistic nursing background, sense of humor, and compassion.

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