This post will cover the important topic of new mums anxiety. It is important to remember that you’re not alone, all new mums are anxious. The good news is you will continue to worry about your offspring, in varying degrees, for the rest of your life. Fact.
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is normal. It protects us, motivates us and alerts us to danger.
When faced with stressful situations, anxiety sets off our in-built alarm system and our ‘fight-or-flight’ response kicks in, which causes a surge of adrenaline to be pumped through the body to prepare us for action.
Becoming a mother
Let’s face it, having a baby knocks you for six both physically and emotionally.
Not only does your body go through an enormous amount of changes during your pregnancy, it also changes afterwards. Trust me, after having a baby, that dodgy pelvic floor means your days of trampolining are gone forever!
And then there’s the emotional side that comes with being a mother; worry, anxiety, guilt, etc. No wonder new mums anxiety is so common.
But these are all ‘normal’ responses to motherhood, insofar as normal goes, because we’re all unique and everyone’s journey is very different.
Things don’t always go the way they’re supposed to, and this unpredictability coupled with the immense responsibility that comes with motherhood can leave many new mothers feeling vulnerable and unprepared.
New mums anxiety: The emotional rollercoaster
Nothing, absolutely nothing can prepare you for the rush of unconditional love that you feel the moment you hold your new-born baby in your arms for the first time.
And then, right behind that comes the realisation that you are responsible for this tiny human being. It’s your job to love, protect and help them develop into wonderful human beings. And a whole lot of ‘what ifs?’ start bubbling up in your head.
The problem is that it’s difficult to distinguish between the ‘all mothers feel this way’ apprehension, such as being worried about the baby’s well-being, whether they’re getting enough milk, sleep, etc, and the ‘something’s wrong with me’ anxiety where the constant feelings of anxiety and stress simply won’t go away. The latter subsequently affects you and your ability to live a normal life.
How do I know if I need to seek help for new mums anxiety?
All new mothers experience the ‘baby blues’. After all your body has just been put through an enormous experience and your hormones are all over the place, not to mention the physical changes and lack of sleep!
However, the ‘baby blues’ should pass within a couple of weeks.
If, you find yourself still feeling low, and those general feelings of apprehension turn into obsessive vigilance and nervousness, it might be time to speak to a health professional.
Is there a difference between post-natal depression and post-natal anxiety?
However, despite the increase in information in recent years on post-natal mood disorders, the emphasis has focused on depressive disorders.
Women can be reluctant to confess to feelings of anxiety to avoid being labelled as whiny and sometimes healthcare providers can also dismiss early symptoms of anxiety as just par for the course.
Symptoms of post-natal depression
- Negative mood which lasts for more than two weeks
- Loss of interest in normal activities
- Feelings of sadness and hopelessness
- Difficulty concentrating
- Possible loss of appetite and insomnia
Symptoms of post-natal anxiety
- Constant feelings of fear and worry
- Feelings of restlessness and irritability
- Obsessive behaviours such as trying to control everything and constantly checking on your baby
- Visualising something bad happening to your baby
What can I do?
The best thing to do, is talk to a health professional.
If feelings of depression or anxiety are affecting your everyday life, then it’s important to seek help, so you can feel better and enjoy life with your new-born.
The other thing that doesn’t help a new mother’s feelings of well-being are:
- The ‘Breastapo’ – You know, those people who look down their noses and make snide remarks that you’re bottle-feeding and not breast-feeding. It shouldn’t matter one iota, but there are always those who will criticise.
- Other people – Those well-meaning friends and family members who constantly tell you the best thing to do when it comes to coping with your new-born from sleeping advice to dummies
- The media – And those constant images of celebrities who ‘snap back into shape’ a nano-second after giving birth.
My biggest tip when it comes to any of these is: ignore them.
You, and you alone know what is best for your baby.
It doesn’t matter if you breast feed or bottle feed, what matters is you are caring for your baby in the best way you can. Not everyone wants to breast feed, or indeed can. And no one, and I mean no one should ever be made to feel bad.
Every baby is different and as such their needs are different. As their mother you will learn what they need and what to do.
And when it comes to your figure, don’t let the media dictate what you should and should not look like two seconds after giving birth. Your body has been through a lot and it will take time to get back to normal, whatever normal is.
Being a parent is thrilling and frightening every day in equal measure.
You will make mistakes. But like anything else in life, you will learn from those mistakes and grow. But if you feel you need help, don’t hesitate to reach out and get the help you need.
Until next time darlings.