A new mother is likely to feel anxiety about her ability to care for the baby, but when is it time to seek help?
Bringing a child into the world comes with its share of worries and stress. Many of these are transient and pass with time. However, if you experience persistent intrusive thoughts and worries that hinder your ability to perform day-to-day functions, you may be suffering from postpartum anxiety. Worrying about your baby’s health, what to feed them, and so on, is perfectly normal for any new mother. If these worries transform into ongoing disturbing thoughts and fears, then you may need to seek professional help.
The symptoms of postpartum anxiety are similar to those of anxiety during pregnancy. Some of these symptoms are:
Feeling restless and irritable all the time
Constant and intrusive thoughts that affect your ability to go about day-to- day tasks
Finding it difficult to relax or fall asleep at night
Constant worry that makes you check on your baby again and again
Worry that stops you from going out with your baby
If you are experiencing these symptoms, you should consider talking to your GP or obstetrician who can direct you to a mental health professional.
Sometimes, new mothers may suffer from repetitive, intrusive images that are very frightening, which makes them take extreme steps to avoid what they fear may cause harm to the baby. Some symptoms of postpartum OCD are:
Intrusive and fearful thoughts and images related to the baby
Compulsive behavior where the mother continuously repeats actions to overcome the fearful thoughts. For instance, if she fears the baby will get an infection, she will repeatedly clean the house; or she might feel the need to keep checking on the baby even when it is asleep.
Fear of being alone with the baby
An extremely vigilant demeanor, and hence not being able to relax.
Just as in the case of antenatal anxiety, treatment of postpartum anxiety depends on the severity of the symptoms. If the symptoms are not severe, emotional support and therapy can help the mother cope with her anxiety. However, for more severe symptoms, the mother may require medication in addition to psychotherapy. Therapy in the form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) or Interpersonal Therapy (IPT) can help the mother. The goal of these therapies is to understand the root cause of these intrusive thoughts and replace them with healthier ones.