If you’re feeling overwhelmed, you’re not alone. This mamahood thing is filled with all sorts of emotions. So what is mom anxiety? Let’s dive in.
Being a mama can be the perfect combination of totally magical and completely daunting.
Feeling anxious can be part of this package as you navigate the joys and challenges of parenting.
But while mom anxiety is common, there are cases where you may need medical treatment.
If you are experiencing intense feelings of nervousness, guilt, or fear, or these feelings don’t go away, it’s important to speak to your doctor.
Wherever you’re at, there’s help and support available.
With that in mind, let’s walk through it.
How common is mom anxiety? When should you seek treatment? And what strategies are out there that can help?
In this article 📝
- Is anxiety common in mothers?
- Postpartum anxiety
- Symptoms of postpartum anxiety
- What you can do about mom anxiety
Is anxiety common in mothers?
New mom anxiety is a normal part of adjusting to a big life change.
You’re adjusting to new schedules and new priorities — and potentially all on a whole lot less sleep.
Not to mention, you have an entire new person in your life who both adores and needs you in equal measure.
As you progress along, you may find that motherhood anxiety visits you at various parts of your journey.
Approaching new milestones can be exciting — but nerve-wracking too.
Yep, being a mama can feel like an endless first day of a big new job.
And somehow, it seems as if everyone else has the hang of this while you didn’t get the brief.
Feeling anxious is a useful response to stressful situations.
It helps alert us to danger and prepare us for challenges to come.
But sometimes, feelings of fear and nervousness can overwhelm us and are not always attached to an outward threat.
In some cases, those feelings can become debilitating.
If you are a new mama, this can result in a medical condition called postpartum anxiety, or PPA.
While this may sound scary, there is effective treatment available that can ease your symptoms and help you gain a sense of agency.
We’ll take you through the details.
Postpartum anxiety (PPA) affects about 17% of new mamas.
Like postpartum depression (PPD), PPA is more than just what is known as the baby blues.
The baby blues are a common response to the hormone shifts that happen shortly after you give birth.
As estrogen and progesterone levels fall, so can your mood, leaving you feeling tearful and overwhelmed.
But if these feelings last longer than a few weeks, or are so intense that you are finding it difficult to cope, it might be that you have PPA or PPD.
These can overlap and show themselves in our bodies, in our minds, and in our behavior. Both conditions require treatment.
Symptoms of postpartum anxiety
While no two experiences are the same, here are some common symptoms of PPA:
- Racing thoughts
- Thinking about worst-case scenarios or always thinking something bad is about to happen
- Excessive worry
- Digestive troubles
- A feeling of tightness in the chest
- Sleep woes, where either getting to sleep or staying asleep can be difficult
- Forgetfulness and trouble concentrating
- Muscle tension and pain
- Compulsive behavior, like needing to check multiple times if a door is locked.
You can also feel mom anxiety at any point in your mamahood journey.
Every phase comes with its unique set of challenges — whether you have toddlers or teenagers.
What you can do about mom anxiety
If you are experiencing symptoms that are making it difficult for you to cope, talk to your doctor.
The good news is that there are various treatment options available, from therapy, to medication, to lifestyle adjustments:
There are all sorts of different kinds of talk therapy that can be done on a one-on-one basis, or as part of a group.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a popular, effective option.
In this type of therapy, you work with a counselor to better understand your thinking patterns and how they might influence your behavior, with the aim of relieving the symptoms you are feeling.
Recent research shows that CBT is an effective treatment for postpartum anxiety — and something that mamas would recommend to one another.
There are various kinds that might be beneficial for you and your unique situation.
Benzodiazepines (Xanax and Valium) and SSRIs (Zoloft and Prozac) are two common medication types.
So you have all the info, if you’re currently breastfeeding, antianxiety medications can get through your breastmilk to your baby.
But in many cases, the benefits of taking medication outweigh the risks.
Talk to your doctor about what the best option is for you.
Mindfulness and meditation
There is a growing body of evidence that mindfulness and meditation practices can help with anxiety symptoms.
Mindfulness is a practice used in various cultures throughout the world where you center your awareness on the present moment you are in.
Many exercises focus on your breath and bring your attention to the sensations you are experiencing in your body.
The 3-3-3 method
This is a helpful tool that you can use in the moment to help calm yourself when you’re feeling anxious:
Stop. Look around you.
Name three things that you can see and three things that you can hear.
Then consciously move three parts of your body, one at a time.
(Wiggle your toes, lift and lower your shoulders, stretch your arms in the air.)
This method can help bring you out of your head and into the present moment.
Snuggle your little one
Now, this is our kind of prescription!
Cuddling your baby releases oxytocin — AKA the “love hormone” — and is beneficial for both you and your baby.
It can even have some very real physical effects, like calming your baby’s heart rate.
We know — not always so easy to fit into the life of a mama.
Do what you can, when you can do it.
You don’t have to move mountains.
Sometimes, just taking a walk around the block or fitting in a quick online fitness class can help press the reset button.
Swimming can be particularly effective when it comes to relieving anxiety symptoms.
Research suggests that diving into cold water can activate what is called our “Mammalian Diving Reflex” which slows down our nervous system.
This can be a tough call when you’re feeling anxious, but getting enough rest really matters when it comes to managing anxiety.
Relaxation methods like having a hot bath or cup of herbal tea before bed can be really useful.
Establishing a sleep schedule can also really help.
Of course, this can be a real challenge when you have a little one.
This is not about getting it “right” — but it is about factoring in your own wellbeing.
Eating a well-balanced diet
Again, life gets busy, and often healthy eating can be one of the first things to go out of the window.
Sitting down to eat regular, balanced meals can really help.
Try to have healthy snacks on hand for nutrition boosts when you need them.
Getting your thoughts out on paper can be a great way to both release and organize them.
It can help you process complex feelings and gain agency over your thinking patterns.
There’s even evidence to suggest that journaling can help wounds heal faster and improve your physical health.
And like all things mamahood — you do you.
You might find it works for you to journal every day, or just when you feel the urge.
There’s no one way to do this.
Schedule time with other mamas
We’re all going through challenges.
Spending time with those who have similar experiences can do wonders.
You are not alone.
We can’t say it enough — help is out there, you’re not alone, and there is light at the end of this.
It’s time we normalized the conversation.
As rewarding as it is, this mamahood thing can be tough. Let’s navigate it together.
💡 More from The 411:
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25 Postpartum Essentials to Know About
A Guide to the Postpartum Recovery Process
All About Postpartum Psychosis
Your (Realistic) Postpartum Workout Plan
How My Experience With Postpartum Depression Changed My Life
Your Guide to Postpartum Anxiety Symptoms
10 Life-Changing Mom Hacks From Peanut Mamas
13 Pieces of Advice That New Moms Need to Hear
Mom Groups: What to Know
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How to Meet Other Moms
59 Self Care Ideas For Moms
Mom Burnout: Reasons, Symptoms and Treatments
Peanut: Tinder for Moms (& So Much More!)
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