Symptoms of perinatal anxiety may include having recurrent feelings of intense worry or panic. Recent research has shown that about 10% of postpartum moms suffer from clinical anxiety. Anxiety symptoms usually appear during pregnancy or in the first 2-3 weeks after the birth of a baby, but may not reach a distressing level until several weeks later. There is some overlap between depression and anxiety, and some women have symptoms of both. Some women with postpartum anxiety have recurrent fears about harm coming to their children, other loved ones or themselves.
Symptoms of perinatal anxiety:
The symptoms of anxiety during pregnancy or after childbirth might include:
- Constant worry
- Feeling that something bad is going to happen
- Racing thoughts
- Disturbances of sleep and appetite
- Inability to sit still
- Physical symptoms like dizziness, hot flashes, and nausea
Causes of perinatal anxiety:
Brain chemistry imbalance: High-level anxiety is often caused by imbalances in the ‘feel good’ chemicals in our brains. Serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine are the neurotransmitters that are responsible for emotional balance, and sudden drops in hormones postpartum are believed to have a direct impact.
Negative thought patterns: Women who are worriers or perfectionists, have high and often unrealistic expectations for themselves and who have a tendency toward negative thinking prior to becoming pregnant, are at risk of developing more severe postpartum anxiety once a baby is born. For these women, the new lack of control, many responsibilities of parenting and reality of caring for a newborn all contribute to racing thoughts and heightened worry.
Nutrient depletion: Numerous studies have linked nutrient depletion during pregnancy and postpartum to depression and anxiety in many mothers. The role of healthy eating and monitored vitamin supplements if/when necessary cannot be underestimated in moms’ health and wellness.
Sleep deprivation: Having a newborn drastically limits the ability for moms to get adequate sleep. Frequent night waking, breastfeeding and high anxiety make it difficult for most moms to get the rest that they need for optimum health.
Dehydration: Some studies have suggested that dehydration contributes to anxiety symptoms including jumpiness and agitation. Moms, especially those who are breastfeeding, are often not drinking adequate amounts of water (at least eight, 8 oz glasses of water a day or more).