University of British Columbia researchers have found that postpartum anxiety is nearly three times more common as postpartum depression. According to their study, about 17% of new mothers suffer from postpartum anxiety, compared to 5% of the new moms who suffer from postpartum depression.
Lead researcher Dr. Nicole Fairbrother told On the Coast guest host Michelle Eliot the following: “Pregnant women and postpartum women who are suffering from an anxiety disorder may not be getting the screening or assessment or treatment that they need because we aren’t thinking to ask about these kinds of concerns because we’re so focused on depression.”
Fairbrother recalled in her clinical work as a psychologist how she was working with a new mother who thought of harming her baby. The woman had been receiving treatment for postpartum depression for two years. What the patient actually needed, however, was treatment for anxiety.
“After my first son was born, I remember having obsessive thoughts that spun through my mind,” she writes. “I worried about my baby’s safety. I worried about mine. I imagine what would happen if I died. I was breastfeeding him and I was terrified about how he would eat if something happened to me. I was scared to sleep because I had to make sure he was breathing at all times. It took a very long time before I felt comfortable even leaving the room he was in.”
Wisner explains that she didn’t consider getting treatment because she didn’t know postpartum anxiety existed. She had only heard of postpartum depression, but knew she was not depressed.
Fairbrother believes the health care system must improve its screening processes for postpartum anxiety and increase access to related treatment for new mothers.
You can listen to the full On the Coast radio interview with Fairbrother here: