Postpartum Anxiety: My Experience

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May is mental health awareness month! It wouldn’t be right to make it all the way through May without recognizing the importance of mental health. Pregnancy and postpartum anxiety is something that many women face, myself included.

My Initial Anxiety Diagnosis

Anxiety has always been something that I have struggled with. College was the first time that I acknowledged I was an anxious person and sought help to manage it.

Waiting in line to get coffee would make me so anxious that I would turn around and walk out the door. I failed countless exams because I couldn’t focus while taking a test. I barely agreed to meet with a therapist because it made me anxious to take that time away from my studies.

But, when I scored a 46% on one of my physics exams (you guys, that’s more questions wrong than right), I came to the conclusion that something needed to be done. I finally agreed to go on anxiety medication. It changed my life.

Conceiving With Anxiety

In 2018, when we decided to start trying to conceive, I stopped taking my medication. The practitioner I saw initially said this would prevent my baby from having any possible withdrawal effects from my medication once they were born. As a first time mom, I wanted to do the best thing for me and by future baby. Surprisingly I wasn’t overly anxious during pregnancy, but when the baby came, it was a different story. 

My Postpartum Anxiety

Postpartum Anxiety is the irrational and constant fear, all day every day, something is about to go horribly wrong. 11-21% of birthing people suffer from postpartum anxiety (PPA).  I want to be clear that EVERY parent worries. You’re doing something you either haven’t done before or haven’t done more than a couple of times before. Not to mention, you are solely responsible for the livelihood of another human being, it’s normal to worry! It’s no small job.

My Symptoms

As an already (overly) anxious person, I knew what a normal amount of worry was and I was far beyond it. I constantly felt an irritability that I couldn’t explain. I felt this overwhelming need to control everything. It was exhausting.

The normal parts of parenthood that most people enjoy, I was absolutely terrified of: 

  • I would have an actual panic attack when someone would come to visit and got us “off schedule”
  • I would obsessively try to feed because I was terrified she wasn’t getting enough to eat
  • I was constantly scared that I was going to trip and fall while holding my daughter, but I was more scared that someone else would, so I carried her everywhere. 
  • Every night I was nervous that she would slip underwater in the bathtub
  • I was scared that if I didn’t repeat the exact same words every night before she went to bed that something horrific would happen. 

Genevieve was sleeping through the night by the time she was 8 weeks old, but I was up all night with a racing heart, obsessively googling and waiting for her to wake up. 

My diagnosis

After (significantly) failing the postpartum mood disorder survey at my 6 week postpartum appointment, I finally broke down to Dave. I decided to seek out professional help for what was obviously postpartum anxiety (and OCD).

I met with a therapist weekly. After weighing the pros and cons with my doctor, the pediatrician, and a lactation consultant, I went back on anxiety medication.

By doing what I thought was the best thing I could do for my baby (not taking my medication), I was actually doing the worst thing for both of us.

Postpartum Anxiety Is Real – you are not alone

I can’t even count the amount of times I’ve looked at Dave and told him how happy I am to be back on medication. It makes me a better mom, wife, person…really all of the things.

As a woman in her childbearing years, I have made it a point to find a medication that works for me and is also acceptable to use while pregnant and breastfeeding. I have no intentions of stopping this medication during future pregnancies, but please know that this is a plan that I have discussed at length with all of my health care providers. This is what works for me.

Mental health matters and and postpartum anxiety/ depression are very, very real. As a society, we need to talk more about it so that people don’t feel so alone. I couldn’t have gotten through it without the support system I had. It helps to know that you aren’t the only one.

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I'm Kristen

The expert & woman behind the screen. I'm also your new best friend who is ready to empower you on this incredible journey.

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