It can be tricky to figure out if you’re dealing with postpartum anxiety, and some common anxiety-induced scenarios might surprise you. This postpartum anxiety quiz can help.
We hear a lot about postpartum depression but not so much about postpartum anxiety.
Recent studies have found that only 20% of OBGYNs screen for postpartum anxiety, so it’s up to you to share your symptoms with your doctor. They are not likely going to ask.
So how will you know? Maybe you had a few weird moments of panic or worry when you were pregnant, but doesn’t every mother go through a bit of that at the beginning?
Sure, but learning to tell the difference between an average level of anxiety and postpartum anxiety can be crucial to your new life with a child.
A quick and easy postpartum anxiety quiz
If you’re wondering if you might be dealing with postpartum anxiety, see if you can relate to any of the below scenarios.
Remember, this quiz is not fool-proof nor intended to diagnose postpartum anxiety. It also doesn’t consider all situations or scenarios that could be postpartum anxiety, but it could help start a conversation with someone who can support you.
A few weeks ago, you lovingly placed your baby on the changing table, but you let go too soon, and they hit their head on the wooden side. The crying was so intense you cried too – and even scheduled a doctor’s visit to ensure everything was OK.
Since then, you switched to changing them on their room’s soft, carpeted floor. Last weekend you removed the changing table from the room altogether, opting for the safety of the floor and a soft foam mat.
Each time you bring your baby to the car, you have a routine you go through – for safety – wiggle the base first, check the level, press down and tighten straps nice and snug, then click carrier into the base and check the placement of straps against their little chest based on the safety standards you have learned by heart.
Then wiggle the whole seat again, then get in the front seat. You are religious about your safety checks and never click your carrier in until you go through the routine, even if you have already checked three times that day.
You love playing with your baby in the downstairs sunshine, so you move most of their toys to the living room, including a travel crib for naps. It’s easier than going up and down the stairs alone at home.
So many things can happen – you have had nightmares, disturbing visions, and intrusive thoughts of slipping while holding your little one. Nope, better to stay downstairs while your partner is at work.
A closer look at postpartum anxiety
These scenarios showcase mothers who are making it work. After all, that’s in the job description. However, anxiety has a funny way of weaving into our everyday routines.
It can show up suddenly in an intense rush of emotions or subtly in how you go about your day while keeping your eye on everything. If you feel a lack of control over yourself or your surroundings, this is anxiety.
If you are making significant changes to your routine or surroundings due to this diminished control, that’s a good sign it’s time to check in with your doctor.
Dr. Laura Froyen, Ph.D. has this to say, “If you find yourself having trouble sleeping, your thoughts or heart racing, obsessively researching every sound your child makes, feeling paralyzed by needing to make a decision, unable to face the load of your new everyday tasks, or feeling guilty or worried that you’ll be a terrible parent, those are all signals that getting support may be right for you.”
The common signs of postpartum anxiety
Postpartum anxiety can present itself in many ways, from panic attacks to obsessive thinking and compulsive behavior, to more severe post-traumatic stress symptoms like intrusive thoughts and complete nervous system shutdowns.
Dr.Laura says, “Intense flashes of anger at yourself or even your child can also be a commonly missed sign that a parent is experiencing some mood changes after becoming a parent.”
How to get support for postpartum anxiety
Once you determine how you experience anxiety individually, it’s time to reach out to your OB, tell them what’s going on, and ask for help.
It is common to have a mixture of both postpartum depression and anxiety simultaneously. Feelings of inadequacy, sadness, and unmotivated behavior over an extended period are your first clues that it could be depression.
Feelings of panic, increasing worry or changed behavior due to fear, or uncontrollable thoughts are your first signs of anxiety.
If you are interested in more help before you reach out to your doctor, I would suggest starting with the Hello Postpartum Mental Health Guide, and when you are ready, you can ask your OB for a referral or search for a therapist online. Bonus points if your therapist carries the PMH-C (Perinatal Mental Health Certification) designation.
A tip from Dr. Laura on finding the right therapist for your needs, “When seeking support, it’s important to find someone who has experience and expertise in perinatal mood disorders. Look for therapists who use the term “transition to parenthood” to find the folks who love working with new parents.”