What you should know about postpartum anxiety


We often talk about the joy of becoming a parent, but experts say many moms aren't talking about the other feelings they're having.

MomsEveryday met one mom who talks about her struggle with a condition that might be more common than you think.

"I remember people saying, you are going to be elated," Amanda Hein remembers.

As a teacher Amanda thought her first baby experience would be a breeze.

"I thought, I'm great with kids,” she said. “I have 25 five-year-olds at a time. This will be easy."

But after a tough labor with her son Max, elated wasn't exactly what she felt.

"Having these racing thoughts, having these interrupting thoughts,” Amanda explains. “I dreamt of dropping my baby on the floor."

She describes slipping into what she calls an anxious space, alone in her thoughts, and afraid of them.

"It was really scary, and I didn't want to tell anybody, because I thought, they're going to take my baby away. I'm a horrible mother."

But Hein wasn't alone at all. Recent studies suggest that at least 17% of new moms could experience postpartum anxiety. It is sometimes less recognizable than the better known postpartum depression.

"There's a lot of pressure from culture and society about what does it even mean to be a good mom," explains Alli Ryan, a doula who guided Hein through both of her births.

She says the expectation to feel joyous after childbirth, combined with hormonal changes and other factors can create intrusive fears that scare some moms into silence.

With the support of Ryan and her husband, Hein sought professional help and says it made her a stronger mom, not a weaker one.

"The biggest thing for me was knowing that I wasn't by myself," Hein said.

Researchers are still studying the causes of postpartum anxiety but believe that hormones and cultural expectations can both play a role.

Ryan says it's important for moms to know that having disturbing thoughts doesn't mean they will act on them or experience postpartum psychosis, a separate and rare condition. She encourages those moms to reach out and ask for help without fear.