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What is Postpartum Anxiety?

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  • Written By: D. Poupon
  • Edited By: Kathryn Hulick
  • Last Modified Date: 30 August 2016
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Postpartum anxiety describes the fear, nervousness and apprehension that many women feel after having a baby. Postpartum anxiety may be caused by physical changes to a woman’s body after childbirth. Some women worry if and when they will lose their postpartum belly, or what it will feel like to have sex after childbirth. Simple, healthy habits, such as a postpartum diet and exercise plan, can help many women overcome their anxiety naturally. Severe postpartum anxiety may be a sign of postpartum depression and may require medical assistance.

A woman’s body goes through many hormonal changes after childbirth that can physically cause postpartum anxiety. The rapid drop in estrogen and progesterone levels can cause visible changes like postpartum hair loss and dry skin. These hormonal changes can also affect a woman’s emotions, causing mood swings, difficulty sleeping, or anxiety. Postpartum fever caused by mastitis or urinary tract infections can also add stress and discomfort to new mothers.

Some women feel very anxious that they will never return to a normal postpartum weight. Typically it takes up to six months for mothers to lose their baby weight. New mothers should eat lots of fruits and vegetables and drink lots of water, especially when breastfeeding. Avoiding caffeine and alcohol is good for both body image and for energy levels necessary to take care of a newborn. Taking a short walk with the baby everyday can help new moms get back in shape while naturally reducing stress levels.

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Another common fear is sex after childbirth, since a woman’s body typically feels changed. A postpartum binder, which is like a giant ace bandage that is wrapped around the middle, can help organs return quickly to their original positions. Also light postpartum exercises, such as yoga and kegel exercises can help strengthen the body inside and out. Setting up a date night lets new parents enjoy some adult time, and may help mothers reduce postpartum anxiety about sex.

Some degree of postpartum anxiety is normal, given all the changes in a woman’s life when a new baby arrives. Handicapping anxiety that doesn’t go away after a few weeks, or that prevents a new mother from sleeping or taking care of her child, may be a warning sign of postpartum depression. If a woman feels that her anxiety is unmanageable, she should contact her doctor for further postpartum depression support. Counseling and anti-anxiety medications may be necessary to cope with severe postpartum anxiety.

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