Study shows postpartum anxiety is more common than PPD
When we think about mental health issues that affect pregnant women and new moms, postpartum depression (PPD) is usually the first thing that comes to mind. That’s why the results of a recent study on postpartum mood disorders are so shocking. It turns out, postpartum anxiety is actually three times more common than PPD.
A study out of the University of British Columbia found that 16 percent of pregnant women and 17 percent of news moms suffer from postpartum anxiety. That’s compared with five percent of moms and four percent of pregnant women who have PPD. Obviously, both depression and anxiety are equally serious conditions, but the new research suggests we might not be paying as much attention to postpartum anxiety as we should be.
As lead researcher Dr. Nicole Fairbrother told On The Coast, “Pregnant women and postpartum women who are suffering from an anxiety disorder may not be getting the screening or assessment or treatment that they need because we aren’t thinking to ask about these kinds of concerns because we’re so focused on depression.”
For women like me, this new research is the validation we’ve been waiting for. I suffered from severe postpartum anxiety for seven long months before I was finally diagnosed. By the time I finally got an appointment with a psychiatrist, I was having panic attacks every time I was left alone, couldn’t fall asleep without my hand on my baby’s chest, and I was starting to develop strange compulsions to manage my stress, like needing to check the locks on the front door a specific number of times before I could allow myself to go to bed.
My symptoms didn’t start out that severe, but they spiraled out of control because they were left unchecked. Back then, I had no idea “postpartum anxiety” was even a thing, and while my doctor screened me for symptoms of depression, at no point did anyone think to ask about my anxiety levels.
For me, the most jarring part of having kids was that suddenly I had someone else on my mind 24 hours per day, even when I was asleep. The weight of my responsibility to my child hit me like a sack full of bricks to the chest, and I had no idea what constituted an acceptable level of worry, stress, or fear. It was only once my anxiety got bad enough to make me feel depressed that I finally realized I had a problem.
According to Dr. Fairbrother, that’s a common occurrence for women who suffer from anxiety. “Sometimes people have these really serious anxiety problems that if they go untreated can lead to the development of depression,” she told CBC News. “If we’re not asking about anxiety, we may not know.”
This research is important because it raises awareness about postpartum anxiety, and helps both new moms and their doctors better prepare for what they might experience during pregnancy or after they’ve had a baby. You can’t ask for help if you don’t know you have a problem, and for the 17 percent of new moms who will cope with postpartum anxiety after the birth of a child, these findings are an important step towards better screening, better treatment, and a healthier life with their kids.
To see if you have symptoms of postpartum anxiety or PPD, please visit Postpartum Progress.