To the new moms or seasoned moms who are struggling and feel like everything is falling apart, you are seen. Here you’ll find a guide that shows how to recognize postpartum anxiety & depression in your real life and routine habits.
In your moment of exhaustion, pain, fear, overwhelm, and heartache—postpartum anxiety and depression feel like clinical, big, dark words. Social pressure for postpartum women to do all the things or have it all together doesn’t help.
Recovering from postpartum anxiety and depression isn’t as simple as recognizing you are struggling, getting anti-anxiety medications or natural solutions, going to therapy, and moving on with your life. Quite the opposite, in fact—the journey can feel like a roller coaster of mood swings.
I’ve struggled with symptoms of postpartum anxiety and depression with all 3 of my babies. The darkness and panic can be so crippling; it’s not just the baby blues. The worst part for me was feelings of guilt, thinking I missed out on those joyful moments with my sweet babies because I either couldn’t participate in the joy or I honestly couldn’t remember; it was like my memory had been wiped away.
Please note: There is no way to write a post that is all encompassing on this topic. While much of this is personal, I also chose to intentionally keep much of my story private. I hope that by sharing my experiences, another mama can feel seen and heard.
From one mama to another, here’s a small peek into my journey with postpartum anxiety and depression and what’s helped me navigate the darkness and waves of emotions.
Conflicting Emotions Can Exist
You can love your baby and not love the moment.
You can want to hold your baby and feel touched out.
You can ache to stop time and speed up the rough season simultaneously.
You can long for your pre-baby body and recognize your new mama body’s strength + resilience.
You can want relief but not enjoy the process of getting there.
You can long to smile and embrace the joy but be paralyzed by negative thoughts.
These conflicting emotions can exist together. However, these emotions don’t make you a bad mom; they simply make you a mom.
Recognizing and fully believing that two conflicting emotions can exist at the exact moment has been my biggest comfort. Embracing these conflicting emotions has helped me heal.
Don’t push yourself to feel only positive emotions if that is truly not where your heart or body is at the moment.
What Postpartum Anxiety + Depression Actually Looks Like
With each of my three children, postpartum anxiety and depression had different symptoms and did not look like the textbook or the typical timeline for postpartum anxiety and depression…
Especially after my first child, on paper, I was fine, but I wasn’t. Postpartum anxiety can look different for every mama—just remember, you are your own unique story—not a chart, a form, a protocol, or a textbook.
For me, postpartum anxiety and depression symptoms look like this:
- sleep anxiety and a racing mind— trouble sleeping, even at night when the baby is sleeping
- panic attacks
- stressing over what my baby is wearing, even if I love and pick out all their clothes
- not able to find joy or smile in a very joyful moment
- thinking I’ve left my child behind even though they are safe and secure in the car, and I’ve checked 5+ times
- loss of appetite
- crying through a happy moment
- extreme forgetfulness
- social anxiety or panic before a social situation
- feeling trapped or paralyzed by fear and indecision
- extreme stressing over the baby’s sleep or eating habits
- feeling like a failure
- putting all the blame for your baby’s sleep patterns or eating habits on you as if you did something wrong (fact: you didn’t, they are just a baby!)
- looking like you are fine, happy, and have it all together as a mom
^ This last one is huge. No one except you will ever know how much you struggle. But, out in public, a mom going through postpartum mood disorders can look as joyful as one who isn’t.
Let yourself have the meltdown
I’m not going to tell you that this will pass or that the first step is to ask for professional help because that sounds cliche. And to be honest, sometimes the anxious thoughts, even chaotic and scary thoughts, are too overwhelming to even know how to ask for help. Other times, I didn’t feel worthy of reaching out and holding on to grace or holding on to hope.
I will tell you to have the meltdown, have the meltdowns! Don’t hold it in. Don’t let it build up to a complete collapse.
Tears release cortisol—tears release stress and tension from your body.
Cry. Cry in the shower, in the car. and as you hold your baby.
Know that your baby will be happy and thrive despite how you feel
In the middle of some rough times in the months postpartum after my first child, I vividly remember a friend telling me that I had the happiest, smiliest baby. Fun fact: babies learn to smile and laugh from the people they are around. Oh hey, that is me!
Even though I was deeply struggling internally, my baby was thriving. That was so comforting to me at the moment.
Know that your baby will be ok. Know that you are the best mama to YOUR baby.
Healing isn’t always linear
Healing can often look like 1 step forward and 3 steps backward and can also often look like a roller coaster.
I naively thought I would go to therapy, take medication and feel better quickly—because that’s the message often shared. “Oh, just ask for help, get help, and you’ll be ok.” But that’s never been the case for me, and I know most other women that struggle would agree.
It can take a while for your hormone fluctuations to balance out postpartum and learn how to do life with your sweet new baby. So be patient with this process. You and your baby will get in a good flow with time!
Someone may say, with good intention, “well I thought you were doing better.” And THAT can be frustrating when the waves keep coming. Healing can bring a good day, healing does have good days, but it can also have rough days. Any good day or moment should be celebrated!
Healing can look like a slow trickle of joy and energy returning. It can look like the darkness lifting. Healing can look like a good day, followed by a day crippled with fear and anxiety. Healing can look like actually participating in a joyful moment rather than feeling numb.
Don’t push yourself to heal quickly—don’t push yourself to feel emotions you don’t. Instead, be ok with your moment.
Sleep deprivation is one of the best keys for recognizing postpartum anxiety & depression
Sleep deprivation is the biggest risk factor and trigger for postpartum anxiety and postpartum depression, and wow, that’s true! Us mamas are pretty invincible, but NO human can survive on little or poor sleep for an extended period.
Lack of sleep night after night will cause you to lose it—I’ve been there. If you feel like you’ve lost your mind, you haven’t done anything wrong. You need sleep.
Telling you to “sleep when the baby sleeps” isn’t the answer either. Check out Postpartum Recovery Plan Months 1-2 for more thoughts on this and ways to actually increase your energy.
You think it will never end when you’ve been up all night; I was just there a few weeks ago. Sleep will come…eventually! But it doesn’t mean you have to enjoy the moment of exhaustion.
With each of my three babies, every time I got a decent night’s sleep, the anxiety and darkness would start to lift, even just a little. I would feel the symptoms of anxiety soften and joy return. But, even if it were for a few moments or an hour, I would cling to those moments.
Navigating postpartum anxiety and depression has many puzzle pieces. But, for most moms, sleep is the biggest puzzle piece to feeling better and curing postpartum anxiety & depression!
But sleep may not come for a while, so focus on puzzle pieces you can control. Focus you need to pay close attention:
- Getting a quiet
- Restful moment
- Taking a shower each morning
- Focus on getting fresh air and moving your body
- Focus on going to therapy
- Focus on natural remedies or taking medication.
Natural Solutions for Recognizing Postpartum Anxiety & Depression
*Disclaimer: Please consult your medical professional before trying any supplements. This is not medical advice.
These natural remedies have supported me through the common problem of recognizing postpartum anxiety & depression. There is no shame or guilt in seeking medical attention if that is what you need—both medication and natural remedies can be powerful tools in your healing process. I fully believe in an integrated approach. It does not have to be one or the other. Natural solutions and medical prescriptions can exist beautifully together.
Please, please seek thoughtful guidance and figure out the best treatment plan for YOU!
- CBD: These Nano Broad Spectrum Jellies have been the biggest lifesaver and investment for me postpartum. I feel a more pure sense of calm rather than racing, anxious thoughts when I take them and that my capacity to handle stressors is a bit more filled up. The Nano technology allows for 24 hours of benefits and full 100% absorption, so you can do more by taking less. Use this link for $10 off.
- Postpartum Restorative Tonic: Creating a baby takes all the nutrients from mama—nutrient replenishment is key to restoring and balancing hormones, especially when sleep isn’t plentiful. Take a shot of this warming, delicious tonic each morning—no mess, no cleanup. Iron-boosting herbs and adaptogens help balance energy, hormones, strength, and mood.
- No Worries Tonic: This deeply soothing nervous system formula offers quick, grounding relief in anxious moments. This herbal tonic combined with CBD helps quickly calm excessive worries and anxious and obsessive thoughts. I keep both in my purse to quickly access them in my moment of need.
- Hydration Booster: Dehydration can increase tension, anxiety, blood sugar, and blood pressure, all of which can cause you to feel stressed and overwhelmed. Staying adequately hydrated with electrolytes so your body and cells can use the water is crucial to every mama! This Hydration Booster quickly energizes and is my first go-to each morning! FLOURISH for 10% off >
- Sepia: With homeopathic remedies, there is no one remedy for anxiety disorders—it’s all about how you present with symptoms. In general, sepia can be a powerful female remedy. With postpartum anxiety and depression, the woman that fits this remedy picture feels exhausted, overwhelmed by the responsibilities of daily life, irritated, nervous, and fearful. She is also typically a strong, independent woman experiencing a change in routine and identity. This woman wants to restore her energy and joy and loves her baby but often can feel indifferent. Sepia makes the biggest difference when I feel worn out and extremely anxious. Homeopathic remedies help address the root cause and then decrease the body’s susceptibility to the symptoms.
- Magnesium Lotion: Magnesium is the body’s anti-stress mineral and one most women, especially postpartum, are deficient in—it can take a while to replenish, so stay consistent with daily use. Magnesium relaxes the body and central nervous system, helping boost melatonin and serotonin production and decreasing cortisol. Keep this at your bedside and apply 1-2 pumps nightly before bed.
- Mushroom Magic: With anxiety, our racing thoughts can often be a jumbled mess. Mushroom Magic has reishi, which calms the central nervous system and encourages mental focus and clarity. I’ve noticed SUCH a difference when I take this each morning.