Postpartum Anxiety and/or Panic Disorder

One postpartum mood disorder that few women may be aware of is postpartum anxiety and/or panic disorder. Between 4% and 6% of women are affected by these disorders during their postpartum period. Women may suffer from either of these disorders alone, together or in conjunction with postpartum depression.

What Is It?
New mothers often worry about their baby and all the responsibilities this little person brings with them. However, in some cases, women affected by postpartum anxiety and/or panic disorder find themselves worrying excessively about their child as well as their own actions. This disorder can compromise your ability to take care of your newborn and have a negative impact on the mother/child bond. While the disorder is similar to anxiety and panic disorders that affect the general population, postpartum anxiety and/or panic disorder is marked by the fact that the woman�s anxiety usually revolves around her child.

Women who suffer from the condition can have debilitating panic attacks, experience overwhelming anxiety and may even develop agoraphobia (an abnormal fear of open or public spaces). For many women, experiencing a panic attack can be so terrifying that they find themselves feeling especially nervous, agitated, apprehensive and tense for fear of another attack. It is important to note, though, that having just one panic attack does not mean you suffer from postpartum anxiety and/or panic disorder.

Cause of Postpartum Anxiety and/or Panic Disorder
Why the disorder occurs in some women remains to be a bit of mystery to experts. Some believe that the disorder is caused by the additional activity in the noradrenergic and serotenergic systems in the brain. This leads to greater neurotransmitter activity, which can act as a trigger for panic attacks.

However, other experts feel that a genetic disposition may leave some women more vulnerable to developing the disorder. A final theory argues that anxiety may be a learned behavior, which intensifies when a person is placed under great stress. Symptoms of Postpartum Anxiety and/or Panic Disorder
Although the disorder can appear gradually during the first year after birth, it can also occur within the first few days after birth. Women who suffer from this disorder tend to exhibit the following behavior:


  • Troubles concentrating and remembering things
  • Difficulties finishing everyday tasks
  • Troubles making decisions
  • Difficulties relaxing
  • Insomnia
  • Exhaustion
  • Feelings of extreme uneasiness for prolonged periods of time
  • Loss of appetite
  • Possibly suicidal thoughts
  • Anxiety/panic attacks

Signs of a panic attack include:


  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling of being choked or smothered
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Heart palpitations or increased heart rate
  • Hot flashes or chills
  • Sweating
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Tingling sensation
  • Feeling faint, dizzy, lightheaded or unsteady
  • Nausea or stomach upset
  • Depersonalization (feeling removed or disoriented from the world)
  • Fear of going crazy or doing something uncontrolled
  • Sense of impending doom or death

At least four of these 14 symptoms will be present during a panic attack.

Risk Factors
Women who have a family history of anxiety or panic attacks are more likely to develop the postpartum disorder. Additionally, those with a personal history of anxiety and/or panic disorders have an increased risk of developing the condition.

Getting Help
Receiving medical help is very important for women who suffer from postpartum anxiety and/or panic disorder. Left untreated, the disorder can affect a your ability to sufficiently cope with your new responsibilities. It can also negatively impact your relationship with your child.

The typical course of treatment for a woman who has been diagnosed with postpartum anxiety and/or panic disorder is medication. Anti-anxiety or anti-panic drugs have been found to be very helpful in managing the disorder. Psychological counseling can also be extremely helpful for many women. In some cases, counseling alone may be enough to help a woman with the disorder.

With the proper therapy, many women are able to overcome this postpartum mood disorder and lead happy lives.

Chat with other moms about postpartum anxiety by visiting our forum.