Is it Normal to Feel Anxious with a New Baby?

As a new parent to a newborn — even if it isn’t your first time — it’s perfectly normal to feel anxious. After all, caring for someone who needs round-the-clock care and can’t yet communicate clearly while being sleep deprived and trying to heal your own body is a whole lot to manage at once. Who wouldn’t feel anxious?! But when average feelings of anxiety turn to overwhelming anxiety, you may need professional help to improve your mental health. Learn how to spot the difference. 

Common Anxiety Symptoms

Typical and generally harmless postpartum anxiety includes common and passing worries about baby’s health, sleeping, and eating. Are those hiccups normal? Why do they have pimples on their skin? Shouldn’t they sleep longer/not as long? Did they eat enough? Why do they want to eat so much?! Questions like this are typical of all parents and in time, parents learn the answers and move on. This kind of anxiousness does not interfere with day-to-day life, feel all-consuming, or prevent you from sleeping at night (that job belongs to your baby!). 

Postpartum Anxiety Symptoms

If anxious feelings begin to feel like they’re taking over your life, you may be experiencing postpartum anxiety. Postpartum anxiety is common but not normal and very treatable. Symptoms of postpartum anxiety include:

  • Excessive or extreme worry that feels constant or near constant
  • Inability to calm down – constantly feeling on edge
  • Irrational fears / worst-case scenario thinking
  • Unable to fall asleep or stay asleep due to worries or fear
  • Physical symptoms like increased heart rate/palpitations, nausea/stomach ache, feeling short of breath, loss of appetite, difficulty sitting still
  • Racing thoughts
  • Difficulty focusing/forgetfulness
  • Irritability
  • Little or no desire to leave the house or be social
  • Obsessively/repetitively checking things 

If you experience any of the symptoms above, notify your primary care provider (like your family doctor), your OB or midwife, or your therapist if you have one. These symptoms aren’t normal and don’t go away without help. If you’re unsure whether your anxious feelings are normal or not, it’s still best to talk to your doctor. Your provider should give you a simple screening test to determine if your symptoms are average or more severe and need treatment.  

For more information, visit the PSI (Postpartum Support International) website or call or text their  helpline at 800-944-4773. 

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