At More Mindful's counselling practice, there are more cases of mothers suffering with anxiety seeking help compared with depression. Research indicates around 6 to 10% of women will experience it pre or postnatally. It can be experienced either on its own or in addition to depression.
For women who had previously relied on rigid control strategies and felt very much in control in most facets of their life, motherhood will challenge those coping mechanisms. For it is not possible to control a newborn's behaviour, temperament, sleep or feeding habits. This uncertainty and unpredictability in the early stages can lead to feelings of overwhelm as well as feelings of inadequacy and powerlessness.
Having suffered with anxiety prior to having a baby is one of the factors that could make the woman more likely to experience anxiety in the peripartum period.
For some women, anxiety is part of a long and complex fertility journey, it can appear following pregnancy loss and most often it surfaces during the first few weeks or months following delivery. A frightening birth experience or a baby in NICU can also become catalysts for anxiety.
While it is common to experience some adaptive anxiety as the parents try to find out how best to look after a vulnerable newborn, it becomes more of a concern when it starts interfering with the mother's ability to sleep, connect with the baby and live a normal life. Regularly checking baby is breathing as it sleeps, avoiding going out of the house to avoid situations that may cause some stress, often thinking about worst case scenarios are some of the signs of anxiety. Physical symptoms can include nausea, dizziness, rapid heartbreat, shallow breathing and fidgeting, making it very difficult to sit still.
Some anxiety sufferers also experience panic attacks, a frightening experience with a sudden rush of fear with strong physical sensations that can make you feel as though you might have a heart attack, go crazy, lose control or even die.
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