If you just brought a new baby home, you have a lot on your mind. Your daily routine and priorities are changing. You may feel very differently from how you did before you became pregnant.
Some of these changes can be amazing, and others can be worrying. If you’ve been impacted by postpartum anxiety, here’s what you can do to feel more like yourself again.
What Is Postpartum Anxiety?
There is a whole group of anxiety disorders and mood disorders specific to the perinatal period of life. The body and brain change significantly during pregnancy and after giving birth. Hormones like estrogen and progesterone fluctuate, prompting many physical and emotional changes.
Postpartum anxiety is anxiety experienced after having a baby, typically due to giving birth and caring for a newborn. Feeling anxious when your life suddenly changes and you’re afforded a huge responsibility is normal.
There is no official clinical screening process for postpartum anxiety. Postnatal healthcare providers use your description of your feelings to make an assessment. They’ll look at your risk factors, like a history of anxiety or a previously diagnosed anxiety disorder. They may also consider your life circumstances and support system to determine if your feelings of anxiety are proportionate reactions to the things happening around you.
What’s the Difference Between Postpartum Anxiety and General Worry?
Worrying and caring are normal parts of parenting. They’re a sign that you want the best for your child and are committed to keeping them safe. Worrying about running out of diapers or feeling concerned about using your baby’s car seat is normal.
Postpartum anxiety is when worry becomes paralyzing. New mothers with postpartum anxiety can experience panic attacks at the thought of allowing someone else to hold their baby, change their baby, or feed their baby. They may not sleep at night because they fear something bad may happen to their baby, so they prefer to remain awake and vigilant throughout the night.
Can You Use Supplements for Postpartum Anxiety?
Many new mothers turn to natural supplements to support their mood and wellness when they experience postpartum anxiety or postpartum depression. Supplements like St. John’s Wort are commonly recommended for the postpartum period, but new mothers should use caution.
If you’re breastfeeding your baby, most of the supplements you use can be passed to your baby through your breast milk. These supplements may not be safe for your baby. You shouldn’t use supplements or medications while breastfeeding without prior approval from your doctor.
6 Natural Remedies for Postpartum Anxiety
It’s important to check in with yourself throughout the perinatal process. Understanding and addressing your feelings as they arise can limit symptoms of anxiety and help you find peace. These are some natural, simple things you can do to help you feel a little more like yourself.
1. Getting Enough Sleep
Sleep is always important for your overall health. Adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep per night. If you have a new baby, that might seem like a pipe dream.
A lot of first-time parents acknowledge that getting sleep with a newborn or a small infant to take care of is challenging. Newborns sleep anywhere from 14 to 19 hours a day and must be fed every three hours. It’s time to delegate a schedule with your baby’s other parent or contact a supportive friend or family member for a little help.
You can feed your baby and put them to bed. Your child’s other caregiver can take the next feeding three hours later. You can wake up for the third feeding. You can get up to nine hours of uninterrupted sleep by delegating a schedule where you alternate feedings and care for your baby. One of you may be living nocturnally for a little while, but it isn’t necessarily harmful to do so. As long as you both can get enough sleep, you can function perfectly well.
2. Finding a Place To Put Your Feelings
You should never feel guilty for experiencing the baby blues. Up to 80% of new parents will experience sadness or anxiety after bringing their new baby home. It’s far more common than not, and the chances are high that other parents in your life understand exactly what you’re going through. You deserve to prioritize your mental health just as much as everyone else. Acknowledging and exploring your feelings can help you work through them.
Having a child is one of the best times of your life, but it’s also one of the most difficult times of your life. It’s okay to have mixed emotions. A candid conversation with a trusted, empathetic friend or family member may be a validating experience, especially if they also have children.
If you’re not comfortable discussing your feelings, you can tell them to a journal. Writing down how you feel, both the good and the bad, can help you navigate the complicated nuances of your situation.
3. Prioritizing Self-Care
When you hear the term self-care, you might correlate it with getting a haircut or getting your nails done. These are both acts of self-care, but it’s normal for them to be closer to the bottom of a priority list for a new parent.
Think about basic self-care. Self-care provides an opportunity for relaxation. It can also improve your confidence and make you feel more comfortable. Taking a shower, putting on some lotion, meditating for a little while, and going for a short walk are all forms of self-care.
When you have a brand new baby, you’re a lot busier. You’re learning to navigate a new normal in real-time. It’s easy to let these little acts of self-care fall by the wayside as your attention shifts toward your little one. It’s important to care for your baby, but it’s also essential to care for yourself.
Set aside at least 45 minutes every day to tend to self-care. You can do it while your baby naps. You can also do it in 15-minute intervals to give yourself small breaks throughout the day. You can even integrate your own self-care with the care of your baby.
If the weather is nice, you can take your baby for a little walk with you. When it’s time to put lotion on your baby, it can serve as a reminder that it’s time to take care of your skin, too. Syncing your self-care schedule with your baby’s will make it easier to integrate your own needs into your daily life as a new mother.
4. Nutritional Support
For about 40 weeks, your body had to change how it did everything. One system was responsible for sustaining two lives, and your body processed and utilized nutrients differently. It drew heavily on your energy reserves to help your baby grow and develop. It only makes sense that you’d feel a little depleted after giving birth. Your body needs to readjust and learn to prioritize itself.
You might feel anxious about your body, and it’s not in your head. You’re right — your body is going to take a while to recover from childbirth. It’s one of the most amazing things the human body can endure, but it does leave some aftershock in its wake.
If you still have prenatal vitamins left, you can continue to take them. This is especially important if you’re breastfeeding. The vitamins and minerals will support you while you use them, and they’ll support your baby via breast milk.
Your body is also still healing. The healing process specific to childbirth can take up to eight weeks, but your body went through a lot, and it may take several months for you to feel fully recovered.
Proper nutrition, especially protein intake, is very important during this time. Don’t overexert yourself or exercise until your doctor says it’s safe. Focus on eating nutritious, whole foods packed with the nutrients your body needs to support the healing process.
5. Find a Community
You aren’t the only new mom attempting the superhuman undertaking of raising a baby and caring for yourself at the same time. There are plenty of other parents just like you, and they all want the same thing that you do.
Support groups and hobby groups for new moms exist exactly for this purpose. Many of these groups encourage new moms to bring their babies with them. You can exchange tips, tricks, help, and advice with each other in an empathetic environment.
It also gets you out of the house. Feeling trapped at home can cause anxiety, especially if you were a very “on the go” type of person before you had your baby. Perhaps maternity leave was a nice break from work at first, but now you’re missing your routine. Groups for new parents can help to fill the void until you’re ready to resume your pre-baby life.
6. Use Complementary Therapies
People swear by complementary therapies like essential oil aromatherapy and acupuncture to help them deal with feelings of stress and overwhelm. Most evidence of acupuncture is anecdotal, and it can be a hit-or-miss experience. However, many people have found success with acupuncture and use it regularly.
Aromatherapy has been extensively studied and found effective for most people. The sensory experience of certain fragrances can help to support your overall mood and bring a sense of calmness. Lavender essential oil, for example, is commonly used for stress relief and relaxation, but you don’t have to use what everyone else uses.
If vanilla oleoresin essential oil, rose essential oil, or sandalwood essential oil does a better job of helping you feel calm and grounded, use the oil of your choice.
A lot of new mothers enjoy postpartum yoga as a tool for stress relief. It’s safe to do yoga as soon as your healthcare provider approves you for gentle exercise. Yoga is all about the gentle movement of the body while practicing mindfulness. It can help to release both physical and emotional tension, which you probably experience frequently when dealing with anxiety.
Can Therapy Help with Postpartum Anxiety?
More than 40 million American adults seek the services of a therapist or a licensed mental health professional every year. That’s roughly one in every six adults you meet. Postpartum anxiety is common among new mothers, and mental health professionals are well-equipped to deal with it.
Therapy is a natural remedy. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) equips people with the tools they need to identify their feelings, manage negative emotions, and turn to healthy outlets when necessary.
Psychotherapy can be used in situations where postpartum anxiety is severe. Some people with postpartum anxiety may also experience significant postpartum depression, postpartum psychosis, or even symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Your mental health professional will guide you if they believe that medications like antidepressant medications or SSRIs should become a part of your treatment plan. Your mental health professional will work with your healthcare provider to create a plan tailored to your needs.
In Conclusion: Postpartum Anxiety Can Be Different for Everyone
Experiencing anxiety over caring for a newborn is somewhat normal. A small amount of anxiety can be a sign that you’re truly committed to your baby’s well-being. When that anxiety becomes consuming, it may be time to seek help. If your anxiety is at a manageable level, you can use natural strategies to focus on your well-being and cope with strong emotions in a healthy way.
How Much Sleep Do I Need? | CDC
Baby blues after pregnancy | March of Dimes
Mental health treatment or therapy among american adults 2002-2021 | Statista
Pregnancy and Postpartum Disorders | Mental Health America