Postpartum anxiety: Why do people get it and how can we treat it?

Dannielle Bahri had done everything she could to prepare for having her first child. She registered for CPR classes. She signed up for a breastfeeding course. She took careful note of the advice and warnings her healthcare providers gave her.

But, despite her diligence, she felt anything but calm when she finally brought her daughter home. She had recently learned about sudden infant death syndrome, and the condition consumed her thoughts. She found herself staying up all night to watch her daughter breathe and taking her temperature obsessively, worried she would overheat and die suddenly. Even nine months later, she would stand over her crib at least three times a night to check she was breathing.

It isn’t uncommon for parents to feel anxious for the first few months. After all, bringing a newborn home presents a huge change in their lives. But Bahri felt her fear was out of control. As she watched her husband get over their shared worries, she wondered why hers weren’t going away.

Like most parents, Bahri, who lives in Canada, had been warned about postnatal (or postpartum) depression, but no one had told her about postnatal anxiety. Masked by the focus on depression and the assumption that these are normal worries every parent faces, this hidden condition has a huge impact on parents and their children. But as more and more people speak out about their experiences of crushing anxiety after becoming parents, and it rises up the medical agenda, researchers are beginning to figure out the causes and explore the…


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