Postpartum Anxiety – More Common Than We Thought

Have you seen this: A new study in the Journal of Reproductive Medicine found that postpartum anxiety and symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder are more common than once thought.  The researchers found 11% of new moms have OCD symptoms (including fear of germs, preoccupation with the safety of the baby, etc) after childbirth.  They found half of the new moms will get better by six months, and there is an additional 5.4% that will develop new onset symptoms at 6 months.DSC02075

A different study, this one in the American Journal of Pediatrics, found postpartum anxiety to be more common than postpartum depression, at least through the first 6 weeks after the baby is born.  The researchers found that 17% of the moms in the study experienced anxiety after giving birth.

The health care folks – together with the media – have done a super job educating the public about the warning signs and risks of postpartum depression in the last decade.  Brooke Shields and other celebrities have shared their struggles with postpartum depression, and have helped millions of women understand that the condition is common and quite treatable.

But in my experience, not all women who struggle after childbirth struggle with symptoms of depression – but symptoms of anxiety.  Extreme fear for the safety of the baby, inability to stop worrying about the baby’s well-being (even to the point of not being able to sleep), fear of germs or illness in the baby or other family members – these, and other symptoms of anxiety – can impede a new moms ability to care for herself, the baby, and/or other children.

A psychologically healthy mom’s ability to worry is endless.  A mom who struggles with postpartum anxiety can be debilitated.  And a mom crippled with anxiety and worry can struggle to meet her new baby’s needs.

Luckily, there are many places to turn for support and treatment.  Ob/Gyn’s and pediatricians are great professionals to turn to for medication management and community resources.  Psychologists can provide individual and family therapy to new moms.  Online support groups like Postpartum Support International can also offer resources and guidance.  For more information about the signs and symptoms of postpartum depression – including how to get help – check out the American Psychological Association.