Of all postpartum mood disorders, depression is certainly the most well-known form. However, it is not the only one: young mothers can also suffer from post-natal anxiety, a disorder that is neither rare nor without consequences.
When we talk about postpartum anxiety, we are not referring to the so-called adaptive and normal anxieties that new parents generally experience. Contrary to postpartum depression, the subject of numerous studies since its consequences can be disastrous, postnatal anxiety is little known and underdiagnosed, on the one hand because it often manifests at the same time as depression and on the other, because young mothers tend to trivialize their symptoms and not consult.
Anyway, postpartum anxiety affects between 13% and 15% of women.
Manifestations of postnatal anxiety
From woman to woman, postpartum anxiety can manifest itself in different ways. In some of them, this postpartum disorder will manifest itself in the form of panic attacks. In mostIf so, they may notice an increased heart rate, excessive sweating and/or chest pain. In short, all the classic symptoms of panic disorder.
Jacynthe, mother of three boys says: “After the birth of my youngest, I was unable to take the highway by car. Every time I hyperventilated and thought I was going to pass out. »
There are also reports of the onset of uncontrollable fears, the most common of which are the fear of dying, losing control of one's actions or going crazy. Here, we are not talking about spontaneous thoughts; rather, we speak of haunting and invasive ideas. The mother then imagines catastrophic scenarios and she is then unable to reason with herself. “I had this fear, completely crazy and disturbing, that my son would fall from his swing, says Maria, mother of three children. I couldn't stand anyone other than me putting it there. I saw him fall and smash his head. »
How to heal?
“Often, the first instinct of people who have panic attacks is avoidance,” explains Dr. Leanna Zozula, clinical director at PsyMontréal. They avoid sources of stress. However, according to the latter, this protective mechanism increases fears and can end up creating agoraphobia.
When fears arise, it is better to confront them. There is no point in tackling the problem head-on; rather, you have to go gradually and be well equipped. "It's with thepsychological reinforcement, says Dr. Zozula, understanding our defense mechanisms and finding ways to overcome our anxieties. »
Not 100% of women affected by postpartum anxiety disorder need therapy. “Some can manage to get out of it on their own, specifies the expert. However, their chances of seeing the disorder reappear during a future pregnancy are higher than those who follow therapy. »
Dr. Zozula therefore recommends behavioral and cognitive therapy and also mentions the importance of being well surrounded. “Knowing that we are psychologically supported, she says, makes a huge difference. Indeed, it is important that women in pain talk about what they feel and that they do not feel like a burden. “Also, says the psychologist, recognizing that you need help is already a step towards healing. »
Men can suffer from postpartum anxiety too
Post-natal anxiety is not 100% related to hormonal factors, so dads can be affected by this disorder too. Just like adoptive parents by the way.
“There is little literature on the subject,” says Dr. Zozula. However, we know that often when a woman is diagnosed with postpartum anxiety or depression six months later, the spouse suffers from the same disorder. " Why? Because the new mom, to recover, must put her needs before those of others. Shetherefore makes a transfer of responsibilities.
The new dad therefore has a growing to-do list, shorter nights and new stressors appearing. “In men, specifies the specialist, it is the environmental factors that are at the origin of postpartum disorders. »
Who is at risk?
As we have seen, men and women are likely to suffer from postnatal anxiety. That said, some new moms are more vulnerable. Indeed, those with a history of panic attacks, episodes of obsessions and compulsions or who suffer from dysfunction of the thyroid gland, would be at greater risk of having episodes of post-natal anxiety.
If you suffer or think you suffer from post-natal anxiety, you should know that we are not alone. Your condition is not a sign of weakness and above all, do not hesitate to ask for psychological support.
Dre Leanna Zozula, Clinical Director at PsyMontréal
Postpartum Mood Disorders