Postpartum Anxiety

by Kazue Koyanagi

Get Your Postpartum Anxiety Under ControlYou might be a professional worrywart who's always worried, even about worrying.

Maybe you're the type of person who always lets things roll off your back. Perhaps you used to worry more than your friends or family do, but now it feels more intense.

If severe, you could feel like you don't recognize yourself at all.

"One of the most common symptoms of postpartum depression is anxiety. Not every woman with PPD feels it, but most do," says Dr. Shoshone Bennett, founder and director of Postpartum Assistance for Mothers.

Dr. Bennett says that, "Some women mainly have postpartum anxiety and don't feel much depression."

If you do have anxiety, these suggestions can help you understand it and keep it under control.

Causes of Postpartum Anxiety

"We tried for a baby six long years. We were so excited when I got pregnant, throughout the pregnancy and at the approaching birth. But when beautiful, little Jasmine entered our lives, something else did, too. Worry. I was afraid I'd drop her, fretting that I hadn't remembered to pack a diaper, concerned she would quit breathing while I slept, afraid I'd lose the car keys and we couldn't drive home... I never used to be like this." ~Tara, Pregnancy.org member

Tara is not alone. Many women experience some level of postpartum depression and anxiety. The key is learning what you can do to help keep it under control or at bay.

Anxiety is caused by three key factors: Physical, psychological and environmental:

Physical Factors

Serotonin, an important brain chemical, is found to be lower in women with postpartum depression. One way to reduce your anxiety is to increase your serotonin levels.

Increasing your intake of specific nutrients fights anxiety by raising levels of brain-friendly serotonin and dopamine. Some examples of these nutrients can be complex carbohydrates, B vitamins, and omega-3 fats.

Medications are available that can help increase the amount of serotonin that can be used in the brain. These are available through your healthcare provider. They can work with you to figure out what will work best.

Psychological Factors

Motherhood myths can cause anxiety because they make you think you can never measure up. Another cause of anxiety stems from how you were raised. If a parent showed you that life had to be handled by worrying all the time or that "worry equals love," this way of thinking might be ingrained. You can be reverse that line of thinking and embrace new mantras.

Environmental Factors

Stressors and major changes in your life or routine, such as moving, money problems, not getting enough sleep, and relationship issues are some of the biggest triggers. They can even be the cause of some families breaking apart.

Life is going to keep being what it is and we recognize that we don't always have control over everything going on. Learning how to take control and embracing methods to stay on top of things helps to reduce anxiety.

Relieve Your Anxiety

When you're anxious, we dread hearing people tell us that, "Everything's okay." We don't appreciate hearing, "Just relax." If we could have willed ourselves out of worry, we would have done it long ago. None of us choose to feel this way. Many women feel ashamed that they aren't "happy go lucky" or all smiles all the time. There is no reason to feel this shame. You're not alone.

When you're down in the dumps, even simple suggestions seem trite. We're asking you to give these a try and help get on the road to wellness.

Get It Off Your Plate!

Simplify your life as much as possible. This sounds harder than it is. Make a pact with yourself. As of today, don't sign up for extracurricular activities that take a lot of time and attention unless you're able to handle them.

For the "must keep" tasks, make a daily to-do list so you aren't trying to keep track of everything in your head. Even if it is on sticky notes, this little bit of organization can keep headaches on the shelf where they belong.

Be Kind to Yourself

Putting yourself down only creates more stress and anxiety. It also sets you up on a never-ending and ugly downward spiral. Buy yourself some flowers, go for a special walk, take yourself out to lunch. Give yourself a compliment, and make sure it sticks!

Take a Hike or a Swim

Gentle aerobic exercise two or three times a week can lower your depression and boost your mood. According to Dr. Bennett, you'll feel better about yourself when you're doing something active to help yourself recover.

Foods that Help

Certain foods offer a helpful hand in increasing serotonin levels. Nibbling on protein-rich foods like meat, fish or eggs about every three hours helps keep your blood sugar even and boost serotonin levels. Some women find drinking whey protein shakes easier than trying to chew and swallow food.

Add in legumes and whole grains to your diet. Carbohydrates from these sources can raise your serotonin as well.

Good fats help boost brain chemicals such as serotonin and dopamine. Your body can't make these on its own so you need to include them in your diet. Flax seed, hemp seeds, walnuts, cold water fish, and kidney beans are terrific sources of omega-3 for your body.

Filter What You Read Online

"What? Why would I want to do that," you ask yourself. It's no secret that we're bombarded with thousands of messages, positive and negative from all over the place. While we always want you to enjoy what we offer here on Pregnancy.org, it's important to keep positive.

"Information on the Web and in the news is often very negative. Negative information just doesn't help your worries. Web information isn't filtered so you're often anxious about misinformation, anyway," Dr. Bennett states.

Stick to websites that make you feel good (like us!).

Find Activities That Work for You

If an activity increases your level of anxiety, the logical thing to do is stop doing it. Trust your instincts. Your friends might swear by listening to meditation tapes or trying deep breathing exercises. If those types of activities frustrate you, then don't do them.

Whether you choose to walk around the block, read light fluff, fold laundry or even clean the dishes, find what helps calm you down or relax you.

Please Accept Help

Anxiety and other postpartum mood disorders tend to isolate women. Go ahead and lean on someone -- emotionally and physically. A wonderful therapist, good friend or an understanding support group can speed up your return to a "you" that you can recognize.

What's helped you or a friend overcome postpartum anxiety? Your tips could help change a person's life!

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