Coping with postnatal anxiety

Welcoming a new baby should be a joyful time. But the new responsibility, lack of sleep and other changes to your life can seem overwhelming and can cause a great deal of worry.

As a new mum, you may open the newspaper but find yourself unable to stand reading the news stories. Suddenly, the world seems a much more terrifying place. In fact, some days you feel too frightened to leave house at all. What if something dreadful happens to your baby?

Other days, your house feels like a prison. Maybe you feel constantly or have compulsive, obsessive thoughts. 'Have I accidentally harmed my baby? What if she gets ill?'

Perhaps you're worried about all the germs flying around your home and spend hours disinfecting every surface.

Sadly, some new mums develop anxiety so crippling, it can stop them from living a normal life. Many are too ashamed to confide in their loved ones. What if people think that they can't cope with their new responsibilities?

Figures from the Royal College of Midwives reveal that 20% of mothers experience perinatal mental illness during pregnancy or in the first year after childbirth. Many of us are people are familiar with postnatal depression and what it entails. However, not as much is generally known about postnatal anxiety.

It's an umbrella term covering different mental health problems, including obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), which may cause a new mum to obsessively clean or to constantly check that her baby is still breathing.

It can also encompass intrusive thoughts - when a new mum may experience compulsive, unwanted thoughts or even visualisations about something terrible happening, often to their baby.

Constant worry can cause physical symptoms including insomnia, loss of appetite, nausea and heart palpitations, as well as terrifying panic attacks.

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