A program at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton is helping women suffering from a lesser known but equally prevalent cousin to postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety.
Psychologist and researcher Sheryl Green, leads sessions for soon-to-be and new mothers and says anxiety disorders are more prevalent than depression during pregnancy and at least if not more common during the postpartum period. She and her team lead group sessions based around talk therapy to help women reduce their parenting related anxiety.
Matica Lang is one of those moms. She became very anxious before giving birth to her second son. She worried endlessly about how she would split her time between him and his older brother and feared she couldn’t adequately care for both boys. When Cooper was born, her worrying only got worse. She says the thought of completing a simple errand caused her to spiral into a cycle of self-doubt, “if I had to go get a bag of milk and I knew that I had to load them both up. And what if Cooper started crying and I’m driving so I can’t tend to him.” She was so consumed by the worst case scenario that she rarely left the house.
This type of catastrophizing and self-doubt is common among pregnant women and new moms. Green says women with prenatal and postpartum anxiety often jump to the worst possible conclusion, “They imagine their child getting hurt or something that has a low likelihood of happening. In their minds it has a very very high likelihood of happening.” This can prevent them from attempting tasks or cause them to be overly vigilant checking on their child while they’re sleeping.
As with postpartum depression, many of the symptoms of postpartum anxiety are similar to challenges all new parents face, like fatigue and worry. Green says it’s when that worry interferes with everyday tasks that expectant and new mothers should seek help. In her group therapy sessions at the Women’s Health Concerns Clinic, she teaches women to identify destructive thought patterns and balance them with more realistic ones.