How to survive Postpartum Anxiety.
Before I get into this post, I’d like to say that I just want to share my experience, feelings, and tips that worked for me. If you feel like you’re experiencing life-threatening symptoms of depression, please seek professional help.
I have dealt with anxiety since before I even knew what the word meant. I have always been a worrywart but had no idea how it would affect me as an adult. I’ll never forget the moment I had my first panic attack.
After googling my symptoms like a madwoman, I knew at that point I was experiencing a panic attack; I was convinced I was having a heart attack. I continued to have them at least twice a week, and soon realized I needed to do something about it. I sought out help but decided I did not want to take the medication route.
Within a couple of weeks, I was able to manage my symptoms by making a few lifestyle changes and eventually I completely got rid of the anxiety. Hallelujah!
Fast forward a few years to when the yearning for a child hit me- my anxiety returned. They say once you experience anxiety, it doesn’t ever fully go away; you learn to manage.
I’d heard a few of my pregnant friends were experiencing anxiety that started from the moment they conceived. So, what do I do? I turn to Google. My search looked a little like this- ‘Does pregnancy cause anxiety?’ The results were endless, talking about all of these women having dark thoughts about harming themselves or the baby due to the anxiety they started to experience from the moment their pregnancy hormones kicked in.
Naturally, the worry set in. What if I went through that? What if it takes over my life and I can’t enjoy my pregnancy? I decided to stop thinking about it and moved on.
A few years later, I found out I was pregnant. Aside from the normal worrying (NT scans, genetic testing) I surprisingly didn’t have anxiety during my whole pregnancy.
Then, my beautiful daughter was born. The first few hours were magical; I was in awe of what I had just done! The following morning at the hospital, I thought to myself ‘Maybe I won’t get postpartum anxiety.’
We were finally discharged; I walked into our bedroom, got in bed with my baby and looked all around. That’s when it all set in. I was terrified! How was I going to take care of a little human? Will life ever be the same?
“Approximately 70-80% of all new mothers experience some negative feelings or mood swings after the birth of their child.”
Guess what? I was a part of that 70-80%. Now let’s dive in and go over what symptoms you may experience with postpartum anxiety.
1.) Always feelings that something bad is going to happen
2.) Constantly worrying about anything and everything
3.) Racing thoughts
6.) Shortness of breath
7.) Chest pain
The list goes on! Think of it as general anxiety on steroids! On top of postpartum anxiety, 70% of women may experience baby blues.
What are the symptoms of “baby blues?”
5.) Mood Changes
7.) Weepiness- crying for no reason
8.) Mild depression
I’d done some research on postpartum anxiety/ baby blues before I gave birth so I would be prepared to get through the first few weeks of being a new mom.
What is the cause of baby blues?
Even though I knew the symptoms, I had no idea how hard it would be to survive them. There came a point where I felt so overwhelmed with all the thoughts going through my mind, so I decided to reach out to my midwife. The way she explained it to me was that there are so many changes that come after giving birth, and it takes a while for our bodies to mentally and physically adjust.
If you think about it- you went to the hospital as two (your partner and yourself) and came home as three. That thought alone freaked me out! You’re experiencing sleep deprivation, your routine has changed, and all the extra hormones from pregnancy are trying to balance out.
Once she’d explained it to me that way, I knew I needed to find ways to survive and not allow it to steal my happiness. I had a newborn I wanted so badly to enjoy!
With all that being said, I would like to share 15 tips I put together before and after giving birth on how to beat postpartum anxiety and baby blues. Please know that you’re NOT alone, Mama!
1. START A NEW SERIES OR A BOOK BEFORE GIVING BIRTH
When I read this, I wasn’t sure how this would help but I did it anyway. I purchased the Amazon Fire Stick and started the Grace and Frankie series during my last two weeks of pregnancy. You’d be surprised how much this helped after giving birth! One of my main symptoms was me not feeling myself, and this gave me a sense of familiarity. It reminded me that I am still the same person even if I don’t have my bump that I had gotten so used to.
2. DON’T BE AFRAID TO ADMIT IT AND TALK ABOUT IT
When I first started to experience baby blues, I was crying left and right! ANYTHING made me cry, and I was so embarrassed. I can’t say I’m not a crier, but this was way out of my norm. I didn’t want to admit to my husband that I was experiencing baby blues for fear that he would tell me it was all just in my head. Silly, right?
Well, after one week of being home, he walked in on me crying in the shower. I had to tell him everything and I’m so glad I did! He wasn’t sure what to do or say to make me feel better, but I just needed him to listen and he did. Whether it’s with your husband or your mom, talk about it.
3. REMIND YOURSELF- THIS TOO SHALL PASS
Most women experience baby blues for the first two weeks and it usually subsides after about a month or so. For other women, it can last up to a year. My symptoms subsided after about a month and half of following the tips in this post. Remind yourself that this temporary. It may take you a little longer to manage the symptoms, but it WILL happen!
4. DRINK WATER
You’re probably thinking- ‘Really, Ashley? You’re telling me to drink water?’ You’d be surprised to know that I was drinking about one cup a day for the first few days. I didn’t even want to get out of bed, and drinking water was not on my mind! I started to notice myself feeling weak, and soon realized I was dehydrated.
I’m a believer in ‘having a pretty cup makes you want to drink more water.’ My husband came home the following week with a pink RTIC tumbler and I have been drinking more water ever since!
Again, another obvious tip. You would think….but it honestly slipped my mind, as well! I was so focused on making sure my baby was fed and keeping my racing thoughts controlled that I just wouldn’t eat. My husband pointed out that I wasn’t eating enough and that’s when it hit me- THAT is also why I am feeling weak! So, here is your reminder- EAT! Especially if you’re breastfeeding, Mama!
6. GET DRESSED
Ok, Ashley.. what kind of tips are these? Seriously, I had to crawl myself out of bed every morning and at least put on a pair of shorts and a t-shirt. It’s true what they say- you feel how you look. I allowed myself the first few days to look terrible because I felt terrible! After about three days of moping around the house in my pajamas, I started getting dressed before my day got started.
I have mirrors all over my home, and it helped to pass by a mirror and see my hair picked up, decent clothes on and a tiny bit of makeup. Trust me, this alone helped me a lot.
7. PLAN YOUR MEALS BEFORE GIVING BIRTH
This doesn’t mean you have to slave over the stove and freeze a month’s worth of meals before giving birth. I DID not feel like cooking the weeks leading up to birth.
Instead, I went on Pinterest and wrote down simple meal ideas while watching Grace and Frankie. 🙂
How are you supposed to sleep with a newborn, you ask? You’re right. It is very difficult even getting an hour of sleep when there’s a newborn close by you. I had always been a heavy sleeper (seriously, my mom would vacuum my room and I wouldn’t wake up), but having a newborn changed that quickly!
I would wake up with every little movement she would make, and couldn’t fall back to sleep. Then, morning would come around and I would get up and do housework while she slept.
One morning, my mom came over and said I NEEDED to get some sleep. I looked in the mirror, and couldn’t disagree with her. For the next two months, I slept while my baby slept no matter what time of day. Now that she is three-months, I’m finally sleeping 7+ hrs and this has helped with my anxiety tremendously! Sleep deprivation has been known to even cause hallucinations if you allow it to get bad.
Sleep when you can!
9. CONTINUE TAKING VITAMINS
I hate to admit this, but I completely stopped taking vitamins after I gave birth for the first few weeks. It was another one of those things that I just didn’t think about. While I was pregnant, it was like clock-work. Now, with all I was experiencing, I would forget. After my two-week postpartum check-up, I started setting alarms to take them. Who knew being deficient in vitamins would affect your mood? I continued to take my prenatal while breastfeeding and switched over to the vitamins I took before I conceived once I stopped breastfeeding.
10. START EXERCISING ONCE YOUR DOCTOR CLEARS YOU
The last thing I wanted to do was exercise, but I can’t say this enough- THIS HELPED A LOT with my mood. It’s true, exercising does help with your serotonin levels and I started to notice changes within a few weeks.
This doesn’t mean you can start training for a marathon, but you do need to do postpartum safe exercises. I continued doing the exercises I did during pregnancy, using my exercise ball and booty band. Get moving!
11. CLEANING ROUTINE WHEN YOU’RE READY
As I mentioned in my 8th tip, I started doing housework pretty early on. This was a big mistake! Allow yourself some time to focus on just you and your baby. You just brought this newborn that is solely depending on you to nurture them; your dusty floors can wait!
If you have older kids, have them help around the house. If not, wait until you’re truly ready to start back up with your housework routine.
12. FIND A HOBBY
This REALLY helped with my racing thoughts. After about two weeks of dealing with my anxiety, I found myself itching to find something that could keep my mind off of my worry about being a new mother. When I felt like I’d slept enough for the day, I would pull out my art set and draw when my baby was sleeping. Another sense of familiarity- a little escape, if you will.
13. WRITE DOWN YOUR THOUGHTS
This goes along with talking about your feelings, but there were a few thoughts I didn’t want to share with anyone else. Instead, I took out my notebook and wrote about it. At first, it felt a little silly and I was quickly back in my thirteen-year-old self writing in my journal. After just a few days of writing down my feelings, I felt like I was starting to understand them more.
Try this, and let me know how this helped you.
14. MAKE TIME FOR YOU
Having a newborn that is depending on you can make you forget about yourself. One thing my mom always told me was to never let go of myself! I felt guilty for the first few weeks for always looking like I’d just woken up, but I forgave myself and moved on. I soon learned that my anxiety was at its highest when I didn’t feel myself, so I decided to make some changes.
I asked my husband to take care of our baby while I stepped out of the house to either get my nails done, get a few groceries or just to walk around Wal-Mart to feel like a human again!
15. IF ALL ELSE FAILS, SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP
If it’s been longer than two months and you are still feeling anxiety symptoms, don’t be afraid to seek professional help. There’s no shame in talking to someone who has professionally helped other women get through this stage in their lives.
Postpartum anxiety and baby blues are no joke. I got to a point where I wasn’t sure if I would ever get past the racing thoughts or the continuous crying, but I did! After almost two months of following the tips stated above, I was able to manage my symptoms and finally enjoy my baby girl. I’m so proud to say that it’s been a full month since I have had any feelings of anxiety/ baby blues. Don’t ever think you’re alone. There is ALWAYS help, and you WILL get through this.
I truly hope you were able to find these tips useful; please let me know what worked for you!
Resource- American Pregnancy Association