If you're a new mother, chances are you're feeling a little scared, stressed out, and anxious (in addition to being very, very tired). Those first few postpartum weeks are daunting for everyone, but there is a difference between those normal, new mom feelings and dealing with postpartum anxiety. While we've all heard of postpartum depression and the many celebrities who have been open about their struggles with it — Chrissy Teigen, Brooke Shields, and Gwyneth Paltrow, to name a few — a recent study concludes that postpartum anxiety affects a larger percentage of new moms than you might realize.
Dr. Jennifer Gentile, PsyD., a psychologist who treats patients virtually via a telehealth app, spoke to POPSUGAR about postpartum emotional challenges, which affect over 60 percent of new moms. "There is not a formal diagnosis for postpartum anxiety, but there is definitely anxiety that occurs in the postpartum period," Dr. Gentile said. "On average, 16 percent of new moms experience anxiety during the postpartum period, which is a particularly challenging time for mothers who are used to having control over their lives. Your life gets turned upside down."
What Are the Signs?
It's normal for a mom to stress a little. We have a tiny creature to keep alive, after all. But when does it become too much? Dr. Gentile said you should take notice when "a new mom expresses concern about things that, from an outsider's perspective, don't seem like a big deal. For example, worrying that a medication prescribed by your pediatrician might give your child cancer — fears or worries that are out of bounds," she explained.
When Should You Seek Help?
Ask for help when it's interfering with your ability to take care of your baby or affecting your ability to take on daily tasks or even carry on a relationship with your significant other. "Think about seeking help when it's causing some sort of functional impairment," Dr. Gentile said, adding it can even lead to PPD or result in the development of OCD if it goes untreated.
What Treatment Methods Are Available?
Dr. Gentile strongly recommends cognitive behavioral therapy. "The most evidence-based treatment for anxiety in any population is cognitive behavioral therapy," she said. "You want to work with the mom and her attachment to her baby. Once she feels more secure in her attachment, she's likely to calm down a bit."
If therapy is not quite cutting it, medication might be an option, even for nursing mothers. "There are some choices for anxiety medications for a nursing mother," Dr. Gentile explained, but she strongly recommends speaking to your own doctor to figure out what works best for you.
Hope Clinic for Women offers postpartum depression counseling at one of the most affordable rates in Nashville. Again, it is perfectly fine for you to experience the normal baby blues. Call our office today at 615.321.0005 if you or someone you know may be experiencing postpartum anxiety or depression. Alex, our Counseling and Prevention Manager is here and ready to help you on your journey to healthy living.