Phone numbers
Treatment enquiries: 0800 840 3219
General enquiries: 0800 138 8680
Make an Enquiry
Hassan Kapadia

Page medically reviewed by Dr Hassan Kapadia (BMedSc, MBChB, MRCPsych, PGDipCT, DRCOG, CCT), Consultant Perinatal Psychiatrist at the Priory Wellbeing Centre Birmingham, in April 2022. 

Having a baby is a huge adjustment and it’s normal to feel a whole host of emotions during this time. You might feel excited and joyful at the same time as feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. You might also be worrying about lots of different things such as:

  • Whether your baby is feeding enough
  • Whether your baby is hitting their milestones
  • Protecting your baby from germs
  • Whether you’ll manage to get any sleep
  • Whether you’re bonding with your baby
  • Your own physical recovery from birth
  • How you’re going to keep on top of household chores

These worries and anxieties can be a completely normal reaction to having a baby. However, if you’re finding that your worrying has become out of control and you’re unable to switch off or relax at all, it might be that you’re struggling with postpartum anxiety. 

Here, we will explore postpartum anxiety in more detail in terms of the symptoms to look out for and the treatment that’s available.

What is Postpartum Anxiety?

postpartum anxiety definition and symptoms

Postpartum anxiety, or postnatal anxiety, refers to anxiety that occurs at any point within the first year following the birth of a baby. As many as 1 in 5 new mums experience mental health challenges after birth and like postnatal depression, postpartum anxiety is one of the most common problems. It’s also possible for you to experience postpartum anxiety and postpartum depression at the same time. However, with postpartum anxiety, you won’t typically experience the intense feelings of sadness and low mood that come with depression.

In addition, it’s important to understand that anxiety can also be a symptom of what’s known as the ‘baby blues’. The baby blues usually occur within the first week of giving birth and can make new mums feel low, tearful, stressed, irritable and anxious. However, the symptoms of the baby blues usually disappear after around two weeks so if you’re finding that your anxiety is persistent and goes on for a longer period of time, it might be that you’re struggling with postpartum anxiety.

Postpartum Anxiety Symptoms

  • Worry that’s constant and out of control
  • Feeling as though you’re constantly in ‘fight or flight’ mode
  • Feelings of dread and worrying that something bad is going to happen to your baby
  • Worrying that you’re an unfit parent and that your baby is going to be taken away from you
  • Constantly asking for reassurance from loved ones and healthcare professionals
  • Inability to sleep, even when your baby is sleeping
  • Racing thoughts

You may also experience some of the physical symptoms of anxiety, including:

  • Nausea and diarrhoea
  • Increased heart rate
  • Heart palpitations
  • Sweating
  • Trembling and shaking
  • Shortness of breath
  • Poor appetite
  • Panic attacks

Tips for Coping with Anxiety: Test your Assumptions

"When we get anxious about things we’re making a negative prediction about what will happen. However if you test this out, it’s likely that you’ll prove yourself wrong, showing you that there was nothing to be anxious about in the first place."

​Read Consultant Psychiatrist Dr Donna Grant's top tips for dealing with anxiety.​​

How Long Does Postpartum Anxiety Last?

Without professional support, postpartum anxiety can last for months and even years. It can have a debilitating impact on your life as well as the lives of those around you, and can prevent you from experiencing the joy and happiness you deserve.

If you’re experiencing significant anxiety that’s affecting your daily life, and this has been going on for longer than the typical two-week ‘baby blues’ period, it’s so important that you reach out for help. You don’t have to struggle with postpartum anxiety. This condition is very treatable and it’s possible for you to make a full and lifelong recovery.

Can Postpartum Anxiety be Treated?

Many parents find it difficult to open up about negative feelings following the birth of a baby, as they feel as though they should be happy and think that everyone else around them with new babies seem to be doing much better than them. They may worry that they will seem ungrateful or incompetent, which can make new parents bottle up their feelings of anxiety. However, it’s important to understand that postpartum anxiety is a mental health condition that needs treatment.

The first port of call may be for you to speak to your GP, midwife or health visitor about how you’re feeling. They’ll be able to assess your symptoms, provide you with professional advice and refer you for specialist treatment if needed. Alternatively, you can contact a private provider like Priory directly. Our expert psychiatrists have a wealth of experience in diagnosing and treating anxiety disorders and we’ll be able to kickstart your journey to recovery.

Depending on how severe your symptoms are, there are a wide range of effective treatment programmes for postpartum anxiety. These include:

  • Inpatient treatment – A residential stay in a mental health facility, often for a 28-day period. There you can focus fully on recovery away from the stresses and strains of the outside world.
  • Day care and outpatient treatment – Attending a mental health facility for an agreed upon number of sessions where you can undergo therapy and other treatments
  • Online therapy – Recover at a time and place that suits you by undergoing therapy sessions online

During these programmes, you’ll likely use a combination of two treatments: Therapy and medication (especially for moderate to severe sufferers)

Therapy

The backbone of many treatment plans for sufferers of postnatal anxiety is therapy. This could take place on a 1:1 basis or as part of a group. Family members or your partner might also be involved in therapy sessions, depending on the causes of anxiety.

Whichever type of therapy is right for you, the aim will be to get to the core of what’s causing your anxiety disorder and work to overcome those issues.   

A broad range of therapies are proven to be effective at treating postpartum anxiety. One of those is cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), which  aims to teach people to recognise, acknowledge and have greater control over your thoughts, feelings and behaviours. Studies have repeatedly shown the effectiveness of CBT in treating many types of anxiety disorder (source).

Other therapies you might be introduced to include:

  • Cognitive analytical therapy (CAT)
  • Person-centred therapy (PCT)
  • Interpersonal therapy (IPT)
  • Mindfulness

Medication

You might also be prescribed medication to help with postpartum anxiety, especially if your symptoms are moderate or severe in nature. This should always come alongside therapy, reducing your symptoms to allow you to focus fully on recovery.

One of the most common medications is from a class of drugs known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). These also have antidepressant properties and can complement the therapeutic elements of your anxiety treatment.

World Class Treatment for Anxiety at Priory

It’s important to recognise that having a baby is one of the most stressful life events that you can go through. That’s why it’s so important that you don’t put pressure on yourself or beat yourself up if you’re struggling.

Support is available for postpartum anxiety here at Priory. Our industry-leading specialist teams help people recover from anxiety disorders every day, at one of dozens of outstanding purpose-built facilities across the UK.

We can help you get back on track and start enjoying life with your new baby. Use the information below to get in touch with our team and take your first steps to a full recovery.

Get World Class Mental Health Treatment

To find out how you can start your recovery from anxiety with Priory, call 0800 840 3219 or make an enquiry using the button below. 

Start Your Recovery
Find a Treatment Location
Find a Treatment Location for Anxiety
Contact Us
Call our Enquiry Line
0800 840 3219
ENQUIRE ONLINE FIND A LOCATION
Download Our Brochure

For more information about the mental health services that Priory offer, download our brochure.

Get our brochure
Can't find what you're looking for?
Contact us by phone: 0800 840 3219 or Make an Enquiry