Postpartum Anxiety During the First Months of Your Baby's Life
It’s important to know that postpartum anxiety during the first months of a baby’s life is normal and we must be prepared to face it.
Before becoming a mother, what did you imagine the first months after having your baby would be like? You probably expected a tender period full of positive feelings and emotions. Overflowing love, excitement about the new life growing before your eyes, fulfillment, satisfaction…
This is the image of motherhood that’s sold to us from the outside and is precisely why many women can experience enormous guilt when they feel fear and uncertainty during the first few months of their baby’s life.
It’s true that those women who’ve experienced anxiety before are more likely to manifest it at this time. However, even those who’ve never had problems of this nature can develop symptoms due to the enormous changes that becoming a mother entails. In any case, it’s important to know where this discomfort comes from and what resources we can put in place to alleviate it.
How to detect maternal anxiety?
Those who already know about anxiety will be able to easily identify the symptoms when they arise. But for those who experience it for the first time, it can be disconcerting. They may even think something is wrong with them physically. That’s why it’s important to be aware of the main signs of anxiety:
- Physiological symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest tightness, muscle tension, rapid heartbeat, or sweating. Also, somatization can appear in the form of stomach pain, headache, or any other symptom that has no medical explanation.
- Recurrent thoughts that approach the woman without her being able to avoid them. These can be about the baby’s health, her performance as a mother, or any other issue. But, in the end, these are excessive concerns that produce a great deal of discomfort and that she can’t get rid of.
- Repetitive behaviors without purpose may occur, such as repeated leg movements or nail biting. It’s also possible to fall into compulsive behaviors such as overeating. What’s more, mothers who experience postpartum anxiety may avoid certain situations. For example, they may distance themselves from their little ones for more than a few minutes, to avoid the anxiety and the worry.
Why does postpartum anxiety during the first months of a baby’s life occur?
There are several reasons that can cause maternal anxiety during the baby’s first months of life. All of them are related to the transition involved, on several levels, in becoming a mother. Thus, among the main causes of anxiety are the following:
- Concern for the baby’s health. The desire for the child to be healthy and develop correctly can lead the mother to become restless and hypervigilant. When the fear that something bad will happen to the little one is disproportionate or interferes with your well-being, anxiety makes its presence felt.
- Fear of not being able to rise to the occasion. Being a mother implies taking responsibility for a life that depends almost entirely on oneself. The child’s wellbeing and happiness are determined, to a great extent, by the mother’s performance. And this is something that can trigger high levels of anxiety and fear of not knowing how to act correctly.
- Fear of losing one’s identity. Undoubtedly, motherhood becomes, from the first moment, one of the most relevant roles in a woman’s life. Therefore, it’s common for many mothers to fear that this new role will absorb them in such a way that it’ll prevent them from continuing to develop as women, wives or professionals. In short, they fear that their identity will be reduced to the role of mother.
What can we do about this?
The percentage of women who experience postpartum anxiety during the first months of their baby’s life is high. So, if you’re in this situation, you need to know that you’re not alone.
First of all, let go of the guilt; everything you feel at this moment is valid and your anxiety doesn’t mean that you’re a bad mother. At the same time, it’s important that you lower your level of self-demand, since you don’t need to be perfect for your child to grow up healthy and happy.
Try to review your beliefs and thoughts and contrast them with reality. If they’re not objective or realistic, replace them with more appropriate ones. It can also be very useful to learn breathing or relaxation techniques to regulate your anxiety levels. But above all, be compassionate with yourself and seek professional help if anxiety begins to interfere with your life. Your wellbeing is your baby’s wellbeing.It might interest you...
All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.
- Leach, L. S., Poyser, C., & Fairweather‐Schmidt, K. (2017). Maternal perinatal anxiety: A review of prevalence and correlates. Clinical Psychologist, 21(1), 4-19. https://aps.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/cp.12058
- Somerville, S., Dedman, K., Hagan, R., Oxnam, E., Wettinger, M., Byrne, S., … & Page, A. C. (2014). The perinatal anxiety screening scale: development and preliminary validation. Archives of women’s mental health, 17(5), 443-454. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00737-014-0425-8