19 October 2011

Post-natal Anxiety

I was at the park the other day with Mya and noticed two very different parents.
There was Parent A who happily sat nattering to her friends whilst their child fearlessly launched themselves off the top of a ten foot climbing frame, narrowly escaping permanent paralysis.
And Parent B who followed their child's every move like a shadow, fearing that if they let go of that child they would immediately be taken down by a rogue swing or perhaps Parent A's child falling from the sky!

This got me wondering.
Every parent I know has natural fears and anxieties about their child's health and well-being.
But what happens when these fears become irrational?
When does normal worry and concern turn into something more serious?

The instant Mya was born and gently placed in my arms, ANXIETY hit!
She was so small and fragile. Every time I looked at her, along with the overwhelming love I felt also came intense fears.
What if I drop her?
What if someone comes into my room and steals her?
What if she stops breathing when I am asleep?

I became so paranoid that for a while I could not lay her on the floor for fear of me tripping and standing on her.
I couldn't sleep without her next to me with my hand resting on her tummy to monitor her breathing.
I couldn't be near an open window without the image of her falling out of it plaguing my thoughts.
When bathing her I would have images of her laying under the water, grey and lifeless having drowned.
And walking with her in the buggy I would imagine myself accidentally letting go and the buggy rolling onto a busy road.

The anxiety became like an alien invasion, very quickly taking over my once rational mind.
When having an intrusive thought, it was like having a nightmare whilst being awake. My imagination would run riot and the vivid images would often bring me to tears.
I found myself hiding away and not leaving the house unless it was absolutely necessary. I would not allow anyone else to hold Mya and only ever left her with my fiance for less than an hour at a time.

I went to the doctors and voiced my concerns. The doctor quickly skimmed over my history of depression and prescribed me with anti-depressants.
But I knew I wasn't depressed.
In fact quite the opposite.
I was overjoyed and desperately in love with my new role as a mother.
So why was I feeling this way?
Was I going mad?

Then by pure chance while reading a parenting forum, I stumbled across the term Post-natal Anxiety.
Then it all made sense. I found comfort in reading stories of women who had been through exactly the same as me.

18 months on from the birth of Mya, I still suffer with Post-natal anxiety.
I still have to check she is still alive and breathing in her cot countless times every evening and I am still plagued with constant intrusive thoughts and images on a daily basis. I have my ups and downs but even on a bad day, I have learned how to cope.

Post natal Anxiety, I feel, is over-looked as a condition in its own right. It is far too often treated as Post-natal Depression and while I think medications can help with some of the symptoms of anxiety, it doesn't treat the root cause. I wish I had been offered a form of cognitive therapy instead of being left with a bunch of pills having to battle through alone.

I hope in the future there will be more help through the NHS for dealing with this condition. But in the meantime I would like to say to any one else suffering in silence with this horrible, debilitating condition,
You are not alone.


  1. Massive hugs hunny! I too suffer post natal anxiety yet it was diagnosed as post natal depression. I was lucky and because of my history I contacted my old counselor and told her I desperately needed to see her again and she told my dr she would be providing sessions from that time. The waiting list through my gp is 6 months and I couldn't wait that long. I couldn't even hold Imogen as I was that anxious of harming her. I had visions of falling down the stairs holding her her pram been hit by cars if we walked down the street, that things would fall on her, that I would tread on her and so many other horrible images. I think I was depressed to but that came after the anxiety and was caused by how useless I felt. For 9 months I had nurtured and protected my child in my womb and in my eyes as soon as she was born I was nothing but a danger to her and unable to protect her in anyway. The feelings of anxiety and failure led to me been so depressed that I genuinely believed Rob and Imogen would be better off if I left. I still struggle today even after so much counseling, CBT and group therapy but it is a lot more manageable even though at the moment I'm not so good. I too hope that in the future there will be more awareness of post natal anxiety and more help out there. Thank you for been so open and honest about this hun. Big hugs xxxxxxxxx

  2. Aw I hope you feel better soon. That's good you had some therapy too. I used to have counselling and CBT for depression when I was younger but when I turned 18 they said I wouldnt get it on the NHS anymore.

  3. I hadn't heard of this condition before. I think I have experienced elements of it, but thankfully it hasn't become something that affects my day-to-day living.
    I think it's awful that you've had to work through this alone - there should have been support, therapy, etc there for you. I think that GPs need to be educated further in supporting those with mental health issues. So often it seems people aren't given the right diagnosis, and consequently they miss out on the right treatment for them.I went to the doctor shortly after the birth of my daughter as I was concerned I might have PND. The GP took a glance at my history of depression and started writing a prescription for my old medication. She hadn't even talked to me, and it was me that had to point out that I was breastfeeding and the medication wouldn't be suitable. It shouldn't be that way. We should be able to trust and rely on our health professionals to take the time and care to help us and support us in the way that is right for us.
    Well done on finding ways to cope and best of luck for the future. :)

  4. Thankyou for your message. I know a lot of people hadn't heard of PNA before. It seems health professionals these days are far too quick to dose people up on medications before even recognising the underlying issues.

  5. PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) is actually very common after birth and often gets misdiagnosed - the symptoms include intrusive thoughts such as those you have experienced and heightened anxiety. I have written a whole page on it on my site under 'Emotional Health,. Many women get misdiagnosed with PND when its PTSD as their symptoms overlap but its isnt the same as PND - yes you can still feel down and tearful on days and have periods of feeling low but it hasnt the same tone as PND. I had PTSD symptoms for over a year following the traumatic birth of my little one. NICE (national institute of clinical excellence) recommends two effective therapies for the treatment of trauma; trauma focused CBT and EMDR (eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing). I am coming to an end of a course of EMDR and its been really effective. I like to think I kind of know what I am talking about in this area as I am a counsellor/psychotherapist aswell.

  6. Ps I just re-read my comment - I hope I didn't come across as a know it all - that wasn't my intention. I hope you feel better soon!

  7. That's okay. I am not an expert in the area as I only speak from experience and from what I have learned from Mr Google! I will mention this to my useless doctor, maybe if I sound like I know what I'm talking about they will do something for me!
    But I did know whatever it was wasnt PND!
    Thanks for your comment

  8. Phew! The main thing is that you know it isnt PND and get your doctor to focus on the horrid anxiety - you know what is happening for you better than anyone else ......