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HOME > Learn More > Perinatal Anxiety Disorders

Perinatal Anxiety Disorders

Postpartum Anxiety


Postpartum or perinatal Anxiety (PPA) begins during pregnancy or within the first year postpartum. If left untreated, postpartum anxiety can persist for several months or even years. With the proper treatment and support, we know that new parents can and do recover.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Constantly worrying about your baby.
  • Worry that persists even when you have reassurance that your baby is ok.
  • Feeling overwhelmed by everyday activities.
  • Feeling irritable, angry, or resentful.
  • Having obsessive, distressing thoughts that pop into your mind repeatedly and interfere with your ability to cope (i.e. “intrusive thoughts”).
  • Having frightening thoughts about you or your baby getting hurt.
  • Feeling afraid to be alone or alone with your baby.
  • Excessive checking, reassurance seeking, or online research.
  • Excessive checking, reassurance seeking, or online research.
  • Not able to leave your baby or take breaks even when you have support from people you trust.
  • Feeling overwhelmed by anxiety or having panic attacks.
  • Loss of appetite or overeating.
  • Difficulty sleeping or staying asleep.
  • Physical symptoms such as body aches, trembling, feeling dizzy/lightheaded, and headaches.
  • Being easily startled.
  • Having a racing and/or pounding heart.
  • Difficulty concentrating, mind going blank, or racing thoughts.
  • Shortness of breath.

For further information on signs and symptoms of PPA, see this page from Coping with Depression During Pregnancy and Following the Birth: A Cognitive Behaviour Therapy-based Self-management Guide for Women by the BC Reproductive Mental Health Program.

What Helps?

There are many things you can do to help yourself feel better and recover from PPA. A lot of these strategies are similar to strategies used to treat PPD.
  • Focus on meeting your basic needs: sleep, food, and water.
  • Ask for help from family, friends, neighbours, and other people in your community.
  • Take breaks and have time to yourself.
  • Set small, manageable goals for the day.
  • Lessen stress where you can.
  • Return to a hobby that you had before the baby – do something you love.
  • Get out of the house – even just a short walk around the block.
  • Connect with people in real life, and not just on social media.
  • Join a support group (for more information about the groups we offer click here).
  • Working through this Guided self-management workbook.
  • Mindfulness and other grounding practices.
  • Counselling.
  • Ask for a referral to your local Reproductive Mental Health program.

Important Note:

Postpartum anxiety and postpartum depression often occur together. Have a medical professional suggest the best course of action for treating both PMADs.

Further Exploration:

Postpartum OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder): Intrusive Thoughts That Won’t Go Away

Postpartum OCD (PPOCD) is a perinatal anxiety disorder. People with PPOCD have repeated intrusive thoughts that are very upsetting and disturbing and pop up seemingly out of the blue. Previously, it was thought that only 2-2.4% of new mothers and birthing people would experience PPOCD, but new research suggests that the incidence could be as high as 17%.

While the intrusive thoughts that happen when someone has PPOCD can be terrifying and disturbing, new parents with OCD are not at risk of acting on their intrusive thoughts.



Beginning anytime during pregnancy or up to one year after your baby’s birth. Can persist for months or years without treatment and support.

Signs & Symptoms

Symptoms of PPOCD are similar to the symptoms of PPA and also include the following:

  • Intrusive thoughts or mental images that are persistent, repetitive, and upsetting, and are often related to your baby.
  • Compulsive behaviours that are done to try and reduce fears and obsessions, such as cleaning constantly and excessively, checking things repeatedly, or avoiding certain places or things.
  • Feeling horrified about the intrusive thoughts.
  • Not wanting to be alone with your baby.
  • Being hypervigilant or over protective of your baby.
  • Knowing and understanding that these thoughts are bizarre, strange, and out of character.

Treatment Options

Similar to postpartum depression and anxiety (listed above). In addition:

  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (with a trained counsellor or using a self guided program such as guide for women
  • Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) Therapy

Further Exploration

Suggested Videos

Robin: developing intrusive thoughts

Linda: scared to share intrusive thoughts

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