Anxiety is a normal reaction to situations in which we feel out of control, scared or stressed. Anxiety enables our bodies to respond to these stressors by producing adrenaline so that we can cope through flight or fight. Motherhood is a time of huge change and uncertainty in a mothers life. Normal routines and ways of living are no longer possible, as they new mother has to adapt to life with a baby. The enormity of the responsibility that a mother feels towards her baby can sometimes feel overwhelming. Some mothers therefore, 13% (according to NICE guidelines), will experience postnatal anxiety.
Postnatal anxiety is often misdiagnosed as postnatal depression, but mothers with postnatal anxiety tend to feel more anxious, experience intrusive thoughts or feel they have to check things all the time. It is an intense form of worry. Mothers with postnatal anxiety constantly worry about their baby, themselves and the things around them. Mothers may also experience racing thoughts and feel that they can not quieten their minds. They may also experience quite disturbing thoughts that make them worry about the safety of their baby and worry that they might harm their baby. They might avoid knives and other items in the home because of this. The important part of working with mothers with postnatal anxiety is to help them see that these thoughts are not intentions and do not lead to actions. Mothers with postnatal anxiety may also experience difficulties sleeping and a lack of sleep can make symptoms worse, so that mothers feel trapped in a cycle that seems difficult to get out of.
If you feel that you might be suffering from postnatal anxiety, then therapy can really help. Finding a safe space to talk through the thoughts and experiences you are having is really important in helping to make sense of them.