Anxious Mama

5 things about postpartum anxiety that might surprise you

People just aren’t talking about postpartum anxiety (PPA) — at least not enough. We need to change that. After all, the condition — which includes symptoms like constant or near-constant worry that can’t be eased, sleep disruption, racing thoughts and feelings of dread related to fears — is not uncommon.

Maybe you’re just beginning your journey of learning about PPA. Maybe you have it. Either way, here are five things to know:

1. That it exists

PPA can exist as part of postpartum depression (PPD) or totally separate from it. Sadly, although we’ve all heard of PPD, many moms don’t even know PPA is a thing — sometimes even when they have it. (I was one of them.)

Many professionals even refer to PPA as the “hidden disorder.” In an article called “Inside The ‘Hidden Disorder’ New Moms Are Afraid To Talk About,” Huffpost Reporter Catherine Pearson explains: “It remains under-studied and under-covered, leaving many new moms to wonder if paralyzing dread is simply the price they must pay for becoming a parent.”

The same article suggests PPA is “at least as common as postpartum depression if not more so — affecting anywhere between 10 and 17 percent of new moms.”

2. It can take many forms, including OCD

One type of PPA is Postpartum Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), which is characterized by intrusive thoughts and behaviors that exist in response to a perceived danger toward the baby. There’s also a form of anxiety called Postpartum Panic Disorder, which causes frequent or sporadic panic attacks in response to anxious thoughts. Even generalized PPA can bring up different symptoms in different individuals.

3. It can start before birth

Heightened anxiety can take hold even before birth and exist on its own, or turn into PPA after pregnancy. In their book “The Pregnancy & Postpartum Anxiety Workbook,” Drs. Pamela Wiegartz and Kevin Gyoerkoe write: “… in some cases, anxiety and anxious thoughts during pregnancy can become frequent, severe and highly distressing. If left unchecked, severe anxiety can interfere with the joy of bringing a new life into the world and can make pregnancy and birth more difficult physically as well as emotionally.”

Some research indicates that 25-35 percent of PPA cases begin during pregnancy. It can also happen later, up until baby’s first birthday.

4. Men can experience it, too

Moms aren’t the only ones suffering from this hidden disorder. Around 10 percent of all new dads will experience PPD/A, and for those who have a partner coping with it, that number rises to between 25 and 50 percent.

5. When untreated, it can last indefinitely

Sometimes PPA goes away on its own; other times, it requires treatment first. Many sources report that untreated moderate to severe PPA can last indefinitely.

Of course, the points above only touch the surface of all there is to know about PPA. Here are a few resources to help you learn more:

Postpartum Support International // Postpartum Progress // what to expect // healthline // Parents

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