Worsened Anxiety After Having Kids Tips

It’s common to hear about increased anxiety during pregnancy. Welcoming a new baby is exciting, but it can also be overwhelming and stressful. Moreover, the physical changes associated with pregnancy can take a toll on your mood. Research by Harvard University discovered that symptoms of anxiety are the highest in the first semester. This is largely due to hormonal fluctuations, which are responsible for most of the physical and mental changes of pregnancy.

Many women expect their anxiety will go down after the baby arrives, and the body returns to pre-pregnancy hormone levels. But this isn’t always the case. Just as many women experience postpartum depression (PPD), it’s also possible to experience postpartum anxiety. This refers to symptoms of anxiety that develop after giving birth. Depending on the severity, it can range from minimal to severe.

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Anxiety is something that doesn’t often go away on its own with treatment. Some people benefit from medical intervention, while others can decrease symptoms of anxiety through self-led methods. But it’s important to address the signs of anxiety as soon as possible to find relief. Being anxious can interfere with your ability to parent your child to the best of your ability. If it increases, it will continue to weigh on your well-being.

Below, we explore the causes and symptoms of postpartum anxiety and review ways you can help manage your anxiety after having kids.


The Signs Of Postpartum Anxiety

The signs of postpartum anxiety are very similar to regular anxiety. Depending on their severity, the symptoms can be debilitating. Be on the lookout for:

  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Sweeting
  • Vomiting
  • Shakiness
  • Chest pain
  • Racing thoughts
  • Hyperventilation
  • Heart palpitations
  • Trouble with sleeping
  • Constant feelings of fear, worry

The Cause Of Postpartum Anxiety

Unfortunately, there’s no clear cause for postpartum anxiety. It’s often exacerbated by a variety of factors, and some women are more at risk than others. Having a new baby is stressful. You’ll find a lot to worry about and maybe regularly question what’s normal or not. It’s normal to feel stressed and overwhelmed, even if you haven’t been diagnosed with postpartum anxiety.


Research has found that changes in hormones can contribute to anxiety, Cleveland Clinic explains. The fluctuations can cause changes to your mood, which can exacerbate anxiety and depression symptoms. It can cause you to overreact to stress. However, everyone’s hormones fluctuate after pregnancy, and not everyone experiences postpartum anxiety.

Sleep deprivation can also exacerbate anxiety. It’s common to have a lack of sleep with a new baby in the house. Psych Central explains the body releases more cortisol (the stress hormone) when it’s running on less sleep, exacerbating anxiety symptoms.

There are other factors that appear to raise the risk of postpartum anxiety, including:

  • Relationship problems
  • History of eating disorders
  • History of fertility issues
  • Caring for multiple children
  • Lack of strong support network
  • Going through a big life change or stressor
  • Previous miscarriage, stillbirth, or child’s death
  • History of mood disorders, mental health problems

How To Manage Postpartum Anxiety

There are a variety of things you can do to improve the symptoms of postpartum anxiety, including the following treatment options.

See your doctor

If you’re struggling with anxiety, a good starting point is to pay your doctor a visit. Your doctor can evaluate your symptoms and give you a diagnosis. They can also talk through treatment options with you, including whether therapy and/or medication could be a good course of action.

Antianxiety medication

Your healthcare provider may recommend you try a medication to manage your anxiety symptoms. SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) are one of the most common medications used to treat postpartum anxiety and depression. SSRIs increase the levels of serotonin in the brain, which can boost positive feelings like satisfaction and happiness.

Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) are also used to treat postpartum anxiety. They work similarly by increasing certain brain chemicals to improve mood. Other medications that can treat anxiety include:

  • Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs)
  • Dopamine reuptake inhibitors (NDRIs)
  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)

Different carry medications varying side effects, which your doctor can review with you. If you’re breastfeeding, not all medications are safe and you may have to wait until nursing has ceased to begin an antianxiety medication.

Therapy

Counseling and therapy can benefit people struggling with anxiety. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is often used for people with postpartum anxiety. This long-term therapy helps individuals recognize negative or false emotions, and then change their thought patterns. It teaches folks coping skills to navigate mood disorders, like anxiety and depression.


Even if it’s not CBT, simply talking to a counselor can help alleviate your feelings of stress and anxiety. Consider working with someone who specializes in postpartum mental health.

Lifestyle Changes

Finally, there are a variety of lifestyle changes you can incorporate that can relieve symptoms of anxiety. Some of these changes include the following:

Diet

What you eat makes a difference in your mental health. Research has found that people who consume more magnesium have fewer anxiety symptoms. You can find magnesium in leafy greens, whole grains, and nuts. Likewise, foods rich in zinc (like eggs, beef, and cashew) and vitamin B (like avocado and almond) can also help reduce signs of anxiety.

Conversely, certain foods can exacerbate anxiety, especially those that raise blood sugar. Try to avoid highly processed foods, like cheese, alcohol, caffeinated beverages, sugary drinks, and snacks.

Exercise

Moving your body is a natural way to alleviate signs of anxiety. Exercise encourages the body to release chemicals in the brain (like endorphins) that boost mood and promote happiness. You don’t need to do an intense work-out; You need to follow your doctor’s instructions for when you can exercise post-partum. But even a simple walk can do wonders.

Find Support

Finally, it’s helpful to know you’re not alone when struggling with anxiety. If you’re overwhelmed with caring for your kids, reach out to friends and family. Let them know how you’re feeling, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you have a partner, make sure they’re supporting your mental health, not exacerbating it.

You may also find it helpful to speak to other parents going through a similar experience. Reach out to online support groups or find an in-person one locally to build a supportive community.

Making these types of changes can seem daunting, especially when you have young children who consume most of your time. But remember, you can’t parent to the best of your ability if you’re not caring for your well-being. Practicing self-care and healthy habits not only benefits you but also your children since it puts you in a better position.

Sources: Harvard University, Harvard Health, Cleveland Clinic, Psych Central, Us Health News, Healthline,

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