What Is Postpartum Anxiety?
In our NYC therapy practice, we often see new parents that are dealing with postpartum anxiety. While postpartum depression is more widely discussed, postpartum anxiety is no less scary for new parents. In fact, postpartum anxiety is sometimes even first diagnosed as postpartum depression because it can also impair functioning and is more known.
While postpartum depression means a low, sluggish mood, feeling hopeless and overwhelming sadness, postpartum anxiety often feels like an inability to slow down as your mind is jumping from one thought or fear to the next. With postpartum anxiety, you can’t quiet your mind, which has racing thoughts. You can’t relax, sleep or even, sit down. You can have obsessive thoughts about something happening to your baby, you or your partner. This can also manifest in behaviors. For example, at times, you may not be able to let go of your baby out of fear that something might happen if others care for them. New parents with postpartum anxiety might constantly check things such as the baby’s breath or the stove. Even if you have support of family or outside help, you don’t feel at ease ever, feeling as if everyone is judging you or you fear they will.
Postpartum Anxiety Is More Than Normal New Parent Anxiety
For new parents, there’s a normal level of anxiety that is to be expected. You’re trying to find a routine with a new baby while working through exhaustion and a lack of sleep. You’re also trying to balance your work and relationship after the baby comes along or adjusting an older child to the new baby. All of this would make most parents anxious.
However, postpartum anxiety is this anxiety exacerbated. For example, with postpartum anxiety, one parent might not sleep because they’re scared the baby might stop breathing. Another mom might not stop pacing the floor because her mind and feet won’t let her. Her thoughts cycle to “This could happen…Did I check this? Better do that.” The anxiety is constant and scary.
At first, the impulse might be to brush off postpartum anxiety as just a part of what being a new parent is like. This is the “hard” everyone told you about in the baby’s first eight weeks. However, if you hit your six-week visit and you are still experiencing overwhelming anxiety, it’s not just your normal new parent anxiety.
Therapy Provides A Space To Acknowledge Postpartum Anxiety
Often new parents, particularly parents dealing with postpartum anxiety, don’t allow themselves to slow down. In our therapy practice, we recognize how important it is for new parents to take note they have a problem with postpartum anxiety. By recognizing that they’re experiencing postpartum anxiety, we can, then, help unpack the problem, acting as another set of eyes and ears to confirm what they’re feeling and acknowledge what they might suspect it might be.
At Tribeca Therapy, we create a nonjudgmental space in the therapy room where patients can feel safe to voice their fears and be curious about them rather than shush or negate them. We sit with the postpartum anxiety and acknowledge that being a new parent, as well as dealing with overwhelming anxiety is hard. As a non-diagnostic practice, we especially get curious, creative and connective with patients rather than just solely diagnostic. We help parents locate the stressors that set off their anxiety and collaborate on finding ways to move forward to make life with a new baby less anxiety-ridden.
Asking For Help Can Lessen Postpartum Anxiety
In our therapy practice, we have seen patients that find anti-anxiety medications helpful for postpartum anxiety. But, sometimes, postpartum anxiety can be lessened by just learning how to ask for help. There can often be a lot of pressure on new parents to “go it alone,” or “do it all.” This isn’t always helpful, particularly with postpartum anxiety. It’s important for new parents to know it’s okay to ask for help for whether during the day or at night.
We help patients understand that there are practical solutions that will lessen their anxiety. We, as therapists, act as an outside third party who can support moms and dads see who might be giving them the best help with the new baby and who might not. This process is as unique to the individual as their experience of anxiety is unique. There are many ways to talk through how to find helpers–whether family members or outside help–for the new baby and new stage of family in a patient’s life.
Yes, You Can Bring Your Baby Into Therapy
We often see parents hesitate to book a therapy session, even when they’re dealing with postpartum anxiety, since their time is devoted to the new baby. This can be especially true with postpartum anxiety since they may fear leaving the baby.
At first, it can be hard to leave your baby with a sitter so bringing your baby into therapy can be an important option. Bringing your baby into session isn’t just okay, it’s encouraged. We can see you and your kid together and the kid can also benefit from mom or dad getting the help they need.
Bringing A Friend, Partner or Family Member Into Therapy Can Provide Support And A Plan For Helping Postpartum Anxiety
Sometimes in therapy for postpartum anxiety, it can be helpful for patients to come in with a family member, friend or partner as both support and an individual who may be able to help lessen the load on a new parent. For example, maybe your mom has been staying with you and sees what’s going on every day. She can’t speak for you in therapy, but she can be in the room as support and someone who can help figure out how she could be more helpful to lessen your stress. She can help create a plan in session. Likewise, bringing in your partner for a session can allow him to talk about his experience as a new dad. By voicing some of his normal anxiety about parenting, this can help get it out in the open to remind a new mom with postpartum anxiety that they’re not doing this alone. A friend or a sibling can also just help by sitting in the waiting area as support. At times, we may ask them to come in so we can all discuss how they could be of help whether individually or employing others in their friend group or family to help.