Perinatal and Postpartum Anxiety: What to Watch For

Perinatal and Postpartum Anxiety: What to Watch For

Motherhood is the biggest gamble in the world. It is the glorious life force. It’s huge and scary — it’s an act of infinite optimism.

Gilda Radner


It’s hard to put into words, isn’t it?

The joy. The exhilaration…

The intense, near-constant worry.

But how much worry is normal? And how can you tell if there’s something bigger going on?

Perinatal and postpartum anxiety is complex. And yet we’re learning more about it everyday.

It’s best diagnosed by a professional who can construct a thorough picture of the timing and intensity of symptoms you’re experiencing.

But what are those symptoms, exactly?

Today we’re taking a closer look at 11 signs that may signal a need for perinatal and postpartum anxiety support:

1. Persistent worry

It’s normal to worry about your child. And some parents naturally tend to worry more than others. But, when that worry becomes near-constant and prevents you from focusing on anything else for long, it may be a sign of more serious anxiety.

2. Feeling that something awful is going to happen

If worry is what’s occupying your thoughts, then this is the feeling that accompanies those thoughts. Sometimes described as a looming sense of “doom” or “dread”, you might also notice this as a sinking sensation in the pit of your stomach.

3. Racing thoughts

Everyone experiences instances of feeling pulled in too many mental directions at once. However, in the context of anxiety, these instances become more and more common. If it feels like a struggle to keep up with your own racing thoughts, it may be time to enlist additional support.

4. Restlessness

Part physical sensation, part mental experience… restlessness is the uncomfortable state of being unable to sit still. You may find that you’re more active than usual, fidgeting or pacing around the home. Or you might notice that physical movement is the only thing that (temporarily) helps take the edge off your anxiety.

5. Sleep or appetite disturbances

Ask any new mother if her sleep or appetite were unchanged by pregnancy! Once she stops laughing, she’ll most likely paint a picture of changes that eventually resolved to a “new normal” in time. But when sleep and eating habits are disturbed to the point of physical exhaustion, malnutrition, or safety concerns, it’s a good idea to consult with a professional.

6. Physical symptoms

The body undergoes so many changes over the course of a pregnancy. Following delivery, however, the process of healing should be steady and aligned with what your healthcare professionals predict. If you notice new physical symptoms, such as hot flashes, dizziness, or nausea, these could signal the onset of anxiety.

7. Episode(s) of panic

If you’ve not experienced one before, a panic attack can be truly alarming. But when an episode of panic occurs during or following a pregnancy, it can be uniquely terrifying. If you believe you’ve experienced one or more panic attacks, this could be a symptom of perinatal and postpartum anxiety.

8. Fear of being left alone

New mothers commonly experience feelings of uncertainty, overwhelm, and intermittent fear. But, if this fear is so great that it prevents you from being alone with your baby, this may be a sign of more serious anxiety.

9. Hypervigilance

The instinct to protect one’s young is one of the most universal drives on the planet. And yet, for some new mothers, this starts to manifest in ways that are ultimately unhelpful: Refusal to leave your baby’s side, sacrificing sleep or meals to watch your baby sleep, spending hours researching ways to protect your baby from harm. If you notice yourself growing hypervigilant of your baby, it’s wise to consult with a professional for support.

10. Intrusive thoughts

It can be incredibly alarming for a new mother when she experiences thoughts of harming her own baby or witnessing her baby being harmed. These thoughts are often vivid, intrusive, and highly upsetting. And while the research is clear that these thoughts are highly unlikely ever to be acted upon, they’re still a sign that professional support is needed.

11. Repeated urges

Maybe you’re starting to check on your sleeping infant a little more than usual. Or perhaps you find yourself going through certain rituals, like counting, checking, or cleaning a specific way. Increased urges to engage in rigid, repetitive patterns of behaviors can be a sign of anxiety, and a signal that you could use additional support.


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Think you may be experiencing one or more symptoms of perinatal and postpartum anxiety?