It’s so tricky to figure out when what you’re feeling is simply pregnancy hormones and emotional adjustment to the huge changes coming and when it may be clinical. So how do you know if what you’re feeling is anxiety or Anxiety?
Here’s a simple place to start: Do you want help? If someone told you they could take away these thoughts and feelings how would you feel? If your answers were anywhere in the relieved to ohmygoshiwoulddropeverythingandmarrythem range, that’s a sign that you could benefit from reaching out for help.
We don’t talk about anxiety much because in it’s lower case form it is something that we all experience, it’s something that keeps us healthy. The very reason we feel anxious, stressed, worried, or scared is to keep us safe. These emotions have biological roots meant to make us vigilant and more likely to survive, more likely to pass on our DNA to the next generation.
That’s all well and good, but the cave mama didn’t have panic attacks nearly every time she tried to leave her house starting in her third month of pregnancy. Or if she did, she wasn’t drawing on walls about it.
Here are some of the symptoms of Perinatal Anxiety (starting any time during pregnancy or in the first year postpartum) as defined by the Centre of Perinatal Excellence.
- anxiety or fear that interrupts thoughts and interferes with daily tasks
- panic attacks — outbursts of extreme fear and panic that are overwhelming and feel difficult to bring under control
- anxiety and worries that keep coming into the woman’s mind and are difficult to stop or control
- constantly feeling irritable, restless or “on edge”
- having tense muscles, a “tight” chest and heart palpitations
- finding it difficult to relax and/or taking a long time to fall asleep at night
- anxiety or fear that stops the woman going out with her baby
- anxiety or fear that leads the woman to check on her baby constantly.
If it is stopping you from sleeping well, from concentrating during the day, from enjoying your life – reach out and ask for help. If you feel like you ‘can’t turn off your brain’ or you’re constantly hiding how you feel from the people around you, please reach out and ask for help.
Anxiety itself is super social, it likes to pair up with other illnesses and hit you with a one-two punch. If you have some of these symptoms, but also others not listed here you may have Anxiety and Depression or Anxiety and OCD. Nothing about this is fair or right. There is NOTHING that you did to bring this on, but there are many ways you can get better.
Postpartum Support International has a worldwide network of parents who have survived PPA and gone on to start support groups to help mamas just like you. They also have resources to help you find treatment. Therapy can give you tools to feel better and there are medications that are safe to use during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. Simply talking about it with others who have gone through the same thing and hearing them say, “me too” can be life changing.
You aren’t alone.
You WILL get better.
Reach out for help.
Once upon a time a theatre major from Charleston, SC met a software designer from NJ. They fell in love, they had a baby – and that’s when everything changed. When I got pregnant with my son I also got two perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. In my case, it was depression and anxiety. The trauma surrounding his birth left me with PTSD. In dealing with and healing from these illnesses I have found my voice and my passion.