POSTPARTUM ANXIETY DISORDERS
Postpartum Anxiety Disorders are common, yet are diagnosed far less than the others because of the
belief that new mothers are just naturally anxious.
There are two forms of Postpartum Anxiety Disorders.
Postpartum Panic Disorder
Occurs in up to 10% of postpartum women.
- feelings of extreme anxiety
- recurring panic attacks, including shortness of breath, chest pain, heart palpitations and agitation
- excessive worry or fears
Three common fears experienced by women with a Postpartum Panic Disorder are: 1) fear of dying, 2)
fear of losing control, and/or 3) fear that one is going crazy.
Risk Factors include: 1) a previous history of anxiety or panic disorder and 2) thyroid dysfunction. (It is
important to have one's thyroid checked by a physician to rule this out).
Postpartum Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
Occurs in approximately 3-5% of childbearing women.
- presence of both repetitive obsessions (intrusive and persistent thoughts or mental images) and
compulsions (repetitive behaviors performed with the intention of reducing the obsessions)
- a sense of horror about these thoughts
The most common obsession is thoughts or mental images of harming or even killing one's own baby.
The most frequent compulsion is bathing the baby often or changing the child's clothes.
Postpartum Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is the most under-reported and under-treated disorder of
childbirth, since these symptoms are horrifying or embarrassing to the mother and she may fear that
others will think she is a risk to her child.
It is important to note that, unlike Postpartum Psychosis, these mothers know their thoughts are bizarre
and are highly unlikely to ever indulge in the imagined behaviors.
Risk factors include: history of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and/ or negative feelings about
motherhood resulting from unrealistic expectations.
Treatments for both Postpartum Panic and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders include: 1) individual
therapy (cognitive-behavioral is recommended) with, 2) psychotropic medications, also 3) couple's
therapy, 4) group therapy/ support group, and 5) practical assistance with child care and/or demands of