What is postpartum anxiety?

What is Postpartum Anxiety?

2 min read

Unlike Postpartum Depression, Postpartum Anxiety doesn’t have official diagnostic criteria (i.e. It’s not listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), so it technically falls under the standard diagnosis for anxiety disorders. This includes experiencing excessive anxiety and worry more days than not and having difficulty in controlling these feelings. This occurs in addition to three or more of the following, leading to significant distress and interfering with normal functioning.

Symptoms associated with Postpartum Anxiety:

  • Constant fear or worry about the baby's health and safety
  • Heart palpitations, dizziness, shortness of breath
  • Feeling restless
  • Irritability
  • Easily fatigued (even with rest)
  • Difficulty concentrating or losing your train of thought
  • Muscle tension
  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep

How is Postpartum Anxiety different from Postpartum Depression?

Postpartum anxiety is typically defined by a heightened sense of worry, whereas postpartum depression is defined by a low mood and loss of interest. You can experience one or the other, or both concurrently. For both, it's imperative to reach out to a health care provider to help manage or treat these conditions.

Learn More About Postpartum Depression 

If you already have an anxiety disorder, will you get postpartum anxiety?

If you already have anxiety or have been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder or a social anxiety disorder, this may put you at a higher risk of developing postpartum anxiety. Some of the realities of newborn life (hormonal changes, a lack of sleep, stress) can exacerbate existing anxiety or trigger dormant symptoms.

But, it's not a given. Many people with anxiety don't develop postpartum anxiety, though it's always a good idea to talk to your healthcare professional and have a plan if you are worried this is something that might happen to you, postpartum. Conversely, many people with no history of anxiety (or depression for that matter) do find themselves struggling with postpartum anxiety or postpartum depression. It's a good idea to know the signs and symptoms regardless of your mental health history and know who to reach out to should you need support.