Postpartum Anxiety: The Little Sister of PPD

IMG 691aImagine this:

You get home from the hospital and you are SO in love with your beautiful, precious new baby. You can’t help but cuddle him and kiss him and love every single moment with him. Until, after cuddling him for a few moments, your heart begins to beat furiously with fear that you are smothering him instead and that you may hurt that precious little life.

Perhaps you spend half of your night awake, but not because you have a baby that wakes frequently, but rather, you can’t turn your brain off from the worrisome thoughts that your baby will stop breathing as a result of SIDS. You stare at the monitor for hours and get up at least twenty times to check on your little peanut to make sure he is still breathing.

For the first 10 months of my son’s life, these feelings were my normal.

I spent a good portion of my time as a new mother crippled by dread that something (or someone) in the world was out to get my new baby boy, including the fear that I would be the cause of it. It was four months into my new role as mother that I discovered I had postpartum anxiety (PPA).

When I got home from the hospital, I had the form that they give you, along with the discussion with my nurse about Postpartum Depression and the symptoms, except, none of mine matched those on the form. Originally, I chalked up my “off” feelings to the new life change, being exhausted and my general tendency to worry. Looking back, I realize the beginning signs were there, but I had no idea at the time.

At first, the symptoms were subtle. I found myself doing things like washing and sterilizing bottles multiple times to make sure they were extra clean. My rationalization was making sure that I wasn’t leaving him open to strange illness or bacteria. With every diaper change, I would sanitize my hands and then wash them vigorously to avoid spreading sickness around the house, with a fear that I would fall ill and not be able to care for my precious gift, my baby boy.

I didn’t realize I really had a problem until about a month after I went back to work. I am sure the adjustment of going back to work with this change in life is what set the anxiety into overdrive. Not only was I adding another level of stress into my life with work, I was also leaving my son in the care of another individual. In retrospect, I am so thankful that my mother was providing child care. If I would have had to leave him with strangers, I’m more than positive I would have wound up over the edge. I spent every day worrying about how he ate, how he was feeling, and whether or not he was dressed properly and was sleeping well. Because Andrew was at home with my mom, I felt more secure knowing that she was caring for him and I could call her several times a day to check in on him. As soon as I got home every night, the anxiety would kick back into gear. In fact, it often set in as soon as I picked him up! Every time I got in the car with him, my heart would race out of panic that someone would hit us and we would get in a tragic accident. Or, even worse, I had an irrational fear that I would be car jacked, leading me to always leave my phone at the emergency call screen, just in case.

img 511aIt was during the holidays when I realized that something was not right. I was not enjoying the experience of my favorite time of the year with my baby’s FIRST holiday season. Instead of being excited about celebrating Andrew’s first Thanksgiving and Christmas, I felt numb and paralyzed because I had so many anxious thoughts taking over my head. All of the things that typically brought me joy during the holidays instead brought on panic and anxiety. I spent the days prior to Christmas disinfecting all of his new toys because he was in the phase of putting everything in his mouth; this also included being scared that he would eat needles off the tree and choke. Because it was cold and flu season, I spent a lot of time washing my hands frequently or wiping things down to avoid all of us getting sick.

Except I was sick all the time. Not only was I anxious and overwhelmed, but the anxiety had taken its toll on my body. I spent a lot of time feeling too nauseated to eat, and my heart raced so much that I often felt out of breath. Insomnia took over and made it all worse. My son was sleeping through the night, but I wasn’t. I would fall asleep and then 2 hours later wake up with horrible thoughts racing through my head. I would spend my days exhausted both mentally and physically, and for nearly 75% of every day, I spent time worrying and stressing out about things that could hurt my child.

Right after Thanksgiving, as I sat in my den and watched Andrew play, I started to cry uncontrollably because I wasn’t enjoying motherhood as much as I had thought I would (or should). It dawned on me that I was my own worst enemy, and I needed to get help, and fast. My husband couldn’t have agreed more. He was so patient with me as I went on my path to recovery. He put up with my fears and my coping mechanisms to help me through. He let me talk, and he listened patiently to me and encouraged me to talk to someone to get a little help and a diagnosis. It was through talking with a therapist that we discovered I had a case of anxiety brought on by new motherhood, or the lesser known sister of Postpartum DepressionPostpartum Anxiety (PPA).

IMG 165aRelief didn’t come automatically, though. I was prescribed medication by my doctor, but it didn’t really help. In fact, the medication made my symptoms worse to be quite honest. Rather than continue on the medication, I looked for support online and from my family. Meditation, behavioral therapy and prayer were a big part of my recovery, along with finding online blogs of others who had been down that same path. I found much comfort in knowing that I wasn’t alone.

The support of Scott and my family helped me slowly started to heal. My husband stood by my side, no matter how deeply I sank into my pit of anxiety. Somehow, through his love, patience, support and kindness, he helped to pull me out of that dark abyss, along with the kindness of friendships I developed from others who had faced the same struggle. Of course, my other main motivator to getting well, Andrew, cheered me on as well with each toothless, gummy smile and giggle. Seeing him start to really enjoy his life experiences really helped me along with a drive to recover.

While I was on this path, I still had fears that would adjust with whatever Andrew’s next milestone was. As soon as he was sitting up, I would circle him with pillows with fear that he would bang his head on the floor and get severely injured. When he started eating table food, every new food would have me worked up because I was paranoid that he was going to have a severe allergic reaction with fatal consequences. However, as time passed, and Andrew crossed each milestone (and survived!), my fears would start to fade and I would move on. I learned that worrying my life away was keeping me from enjoying the very gift I treasured, and I didn’t want to continue on that way. I continued to fight hard to get back to enjoying my life as a mother and wife.

photo (35)Now that Andrew is approaching his second birthday, I can proudly say that I have said good bye to the PPA demon. I still have worrisome moments (don’t we all? I mean, we are moms, after all!), but I can say that with each passing day, the worry and anxiety are much less a part of my life. Of course, I will still have moments where I will get anxious, like when my son gets hurt or when he starts school. However, for the most part, life has improved drastically. I’m enjoying each moment of motherhood and life with my little dirty handed, tractor-spotting, curious little boy, and I am so grateful that I dug myself out of the hole so that I could enjoy these moments.

Please know that it took me almost a year to share this very personal struggle with you. I finally decided to open up in hopes that I, too, can help at least one person who may be dealing with this illness that is often not recognized.

If you are struggling with Postpartum Anxiety, please know you are NOT alone and you shouldn’t feel judged. There are several resources (such as Postpartum Progress and Postpartum Support International) available that can help you cope with such a difficult struggle and your doctor can help you also get on a path to feeling well. Also, please, if you need an ear or someone to relate, please feel free to send me an email because I know that having just ONE person to listen can make a world of difference. You can reach me at andie {at} neworleansmomsblog {dot} com

Disclaimer: This post is not meant to substitute medical advice. If you or someone you love is struggling with this, please contact a medical professional for diagnosis and treatment.


  1. Andie, first let me say how brave and courageous it is for you to share. Thank you. I KNOW you’ve helped probably not only one person, but several, at least. Also, you know that I went through this, too, and it is amazing as I was reading your post and all of your fears and thoughts were my SAME EXACT fears and thoughts….staying up all night worried about SIDS, worried about the installment of the car seat, worried about introducing new foods, worried about him banging his head on the floor when he learned to sit up, cleaning and sterilizing everything…I totally “feel you” and what you went through. I have come out the other side, too, and it feels sooooo much better, and I’m enjoying being a mom sooooo much more!!! I’m not happy at all that you went through this, BUT it does feel good to know I’m not the only one.

    • Amber, I am so glad you could relate and now that you are not alone. You know, I’m happy to talk about it anytime you want to get together!

  2. Thank you for sharing this post Andie! No matter what struggles we all have, it’s comforting to know that we all go through our own journey and we can make it!

  3. Thank you for sharing and bringing PPA to the public eye a bit more. I, too, had extreme anxiety after my son (now 14 months) was born. It was crippling and I thought I was going crazy! And I’m a therapist!!! I felt like I should’ve been able to getbiy all together on my own. But that wasn’t te case and I finally, with the support of my husband, went to therapy. There’s absolutely no shame in reaching out for help when you need it! Our babies deserve for us to be well and so do we! I still have issues “going down the rabbit hole” as I call it, but I have better tools to handle it. I urge anyone who is feeling this way to speak to a professional! It can be better! Thanks again, for sharing your story!!! It takes a lot of courage!

    • thank you so much Kimmie. It was a very hard thing to go through, and the one thing that helped me so much was meeting someone else who was struggling with the same problems… it was great to have an ear of someone who understood those difficult things I was experiencing. Thank you so much for your support!!!


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