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  • Shawna Lauer, LMFT

Pregnancy and Postpartum Anxiety: Is It Normal to Worry this Much?

All pregnant women and mothers of newborns worry, right? But for some, this worry and anxiety can be overwhelming and you may be wondering if you should seek help. Let’s talk about whether your worries are a normal part of pregnancy/postpartum, or if they’re more severe.

Almost everyone has heard of postpartum depression and can understand what it might feel like to be sad all the time. But Postpartum Anxiety (PPA) is something different, it’s just as common as postpartum depression, but its rarely talked about and often goes undiagnosed and untreated. According to the American Pregnancy Association, PPA affects approximately 10% of moms in the year after they give birth, and for some women it starts in pregnancy. The good news is that it is temporary and treatable.


Women experiencing postpartum anxiety (or anxiety during pregnancy) report feeling “like I’m crawling out of my skin,” “I’m on edge,” “my thoughts won’t stop racing,” “I can’t sleep, eat or stop worrying.” This anxiety can be exhausting and also lead to symptoms of depression. Other signs of postpartum anxiety (PPA) include excessive worrying, racing thoughts and feelings of dread. If your worries are irrational and you can’t get them out of your head, you should reach out for help. For instance, some women experience an intense fear that their baby will get hurt if they don’t hold him, or their anxiety brings about fear in everyday situations like driving a car with baby on board.

You may be wondering, how do I know if what I’m feeling is normal? All pregnant women and new moms worry, right?

Here are some signs that your worries may be beyond what is typically experienced and that you may have postpartum anxiety:

  • Excessive worry

  • Feelings of dread

  • Racing thoughts

  • Lack of concentration

  • Changes in eating and sleeping patterns

  • Fears of loosing control, getting ill, fainting

  • Physical symptoms:

    • Hot flashes

    • Rapid heartbeat

    • Dizziness

    • Nausea

    • Feeling shaky

    • Shortness of breath

    • Panic attacks

If you’re wondering if you should seek help, ask yourself these questions:

  • Does your anxiety feel physical?

  • Is it getting worse?

  • Is it hard to distract yourself from the worry?

  • Is the worry persistent?

  • Do panic attacks come out of the blue?

  • Does your anxiety interfere with your ability to function?

  • Does your anxiety affect everyday situations that normally wouldn’t cause fear?

If you answered yes to any of these questions you should consider reaching out to a professional who can help assess the severity of your symptoms and help you decide the best treatment to help manage all of this. You don’t have to do this alone and there’s no shame in reaching out for help!


According to Margaret Howard, Ph.D, "some worry is adaptive. Anxiety is a natural response to protect one's baby, and often that's expressed with hyper-alertness and hyper-vigilance." That's why, according to the Mayo Clinic, 89 percent of new parents find their minds racing: What if the baby suffocates? Or slips under the water during a bath? What if someone breaks into the house and snatches her? In parenthood our instincts kick in and our primary focus becomes protecting our vulnerable baby.

"For most parents, this is just mental noise," says Jonathan Abramowitz, Ph.D., associate chairman of psychology and director of the Anxiety and Stress Disorders Clinic at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "They learn to dismiss it, so the thoughts stop cropping up."

For those with PPA, it’s difficult to calm these worries, to dismiss these irrational thoughts and the feelings may manifest themselves physically. Your brain is acting as if a tiger is chasing you, your adrenaline is pumping, but in reality, there is no danger present. With treatment, we can give you ways to turn off that switch and to bring your body and mind back into a calm state.


First, remind yourself that this is not your fault, that you’re not a “bad mom,” and that you’re not the only one feeling this way. Remember that your hormones have been through tremendous shifts and that you are likely sleep deprived. Then, take steps to start to feel better. Unlike the baby blues, PPA is often unlikely to go away on it’s own. It’s important to seek help if anxiety is disrupting your sleep, your life, or if you’re constantly preoccupied with worries. It’s ok to ask for help and there’s no shame in wanting to feel better for yourself, your baby and your loved ones. Some treatments that can help reduce anxiety include

  • Counseling and therapy

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

  • Mindfulness and meditation

  • Anti-anxiety medication is also warranted in some cases and would be prescribed by a medical doctor or psychiatrist

It is better to seek help sooner than later. Your mental health—and your ability to take care of and bond with your child—are so important. Taking care of yourself IS taking care of your baby.

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