Pregnancy is a season of intense emotional and physical change. If the pregnancy is unplanned, it’s likely you will have lots of feelings about the situation and how to move forward. These concerns can carry into the postpartum time. Unplanned pregnancies are one of the more common risk factors for developing perinatal anxiety and depression.
So what is perinatal anxiety and how do you know if you have it?
PERINATAL IS NOT JUST POSTNATAL
Perinatal, also known as postpartum anxiety (PPA), like other forms of anxiety, is not just about feeling anxious most of the time. Anxiety is a debilitating mental health condition that affects most, if not all, aspects of daily life. Perinatal refers to the time right, during, and after childbirth, so perinatal anxiety encompasses both pre and postpartum anxiety and depression.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS?
PPA looks different for each mother, often depending on her circumstances, personality, etc. However, although postpartum depression has rightfully been the focus of recent public health campaigns, PPA is often not discussed as openly. In fact, many new mothers have never even heard of perinatal anxiety until their diagnosis. PPA and PPD often do go hand in hand, but without emphasizing some of the risks and symptoms, many women who need treatment might not know it.
Some symptoms of PPA during pregnancy include ruminating and obsessive thoughts, constant worry, inability to concentrate, irritability, and more.
Immediately postpartum, the drastic drop in hormones after childbirth leaves behind intense emotional ups and downs in its wake. This specific experience, which occurs within days to a few weeks postpartum – is known as “the baby blues”, and it’s important to know that this experience is very different from postpartum anxiety and depression. After childbirth, if you experience excessive worry about your baby (staying up all night to watch them breathe, for example), obsessive and racing thoughts, changes in sleep and appetite, mood swings, and an inability to positively bond with your child.
If you suffer from either prenatal or postpartum anxiety, know that it’s not your fault, and there are treatment options. Medication is one example. Most SSRIs – commonly prescribed medication to treat both depression and anxiety – are safe to use both during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. Even small doses are effective in many cases. Additionally, consider speaking with a therapist either privately or in group sessions. Counseling methods like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy have been successful at treating perinatal anxiety by combatting the often incessant, racing thoughts that accompany it.
If you’re worried about your unplanned pregnancy and how it might affect your mental health, book an appointment with us. During pregnancy and beyond, your health and wellbeing is of vital importance. We can help point you in the direction you need to get safe, effective support for your journey with perinatal anxiety.