I had never heard of postpartum anxiety until a friend of mine told me she was going to a counseling group after her second child. “Is that the same as postpartum depression?” I asked; but in fact, these two conditions are symptomatically very different. Both are common problems, but studies have shown postpartum anxiety to be even more prevalent than postpartum depression. So what is it? When is it a problem? And how common is it to suffer postpartum anxiety after twins?
It’s normal to worry about your kids. But when you’re assigned a ‘high risk’ doctor, scheduled for by-weekly scans, and repeatedly told about the chances of your kids ending up in the NICU, twin pregnancy is inherently a time of worry. Following that, the first year with twins is really tough, and there’s no wonder we are more susceptible to mental health issues.
PostPartum Anxiety after Twins
Post Partum Mood Disorders (PPMD, a term used to group all postpartum conditions, including anxiety) are thought to be triggered by hormonal shifts after childbirth. However, a history of mental health problems, high-stress pregnancy, and premature birth all contribute to the chances of being affected.
The rate of PPMD in mothers of multiples is thought to be around 30%, compared with 10-15% for moms of singleton parents.*
It’s normal to worry because multiples are commonly premature tiny babies… they need a little more TLC, yet there’s still only one of you. To add to the mix, everyone you bump into at the Grocery store looks at you wide eyed and says ‘How do you do it?“. Although these words are well intentioned, it doesn’t help the overwhelming panic you might feel in your gut on a bad day.
Symptoms of Postpartum Anxiety
“It felt like I had a cannon ball weighing down on my chest the whole time. Little things (accidents, like dropping shopping or burning toast) felt like major incidents. I remember being physically tense, which gave me headaches. I’ve always been a worrier, and my worrying went out of control and I’d have awful ‘daymares’ where I’d convince myself all sorts of awful things would happen to the boys and my family.” (Sarah, mom of two and postpartum anxiety sufferer)
- Constant worry and racing thoughts;
- Feeling or imagining something bad is going to happen;
- Fidgety behavior and an inability to sit still;
- Disturbed sleep and eating patterns;
- Episodes of dizziness, hot flashes, and nausea;
Knowing When to Get Help
This is where I struggle. I am not a doctor person. Partly because I imagine doctors rolling their eyes and calling me a hypochondriac (which I’m sure would never happen), and partly because I’m not a pill popper. I don’t like the idea of someone talking to me for five minutes and sending me on my way with a repeat prescription of drugs I’ll never be able to live without. Plus… it’s normal to feel a bit jumpy, right?
“Women are used to handling things, so they assume it’s all part of new motherhood, white-knuckle it, and push through,” (Margaret Howard, in interview with the Seleni Institute)
Last night I woke from a dream about my daughter being kidnapped. She was being held to ransom and I couldn’t find a way to get to her back. I then spent the next two hours wide awake with visions of the Twins throwing themselves over the half partition at the top of the stairs. I’ve been thinking about this possibility for about two months because they now know how to move furniture and use it to climb on. As the scene plays in my mind I get a sudden physical sensation which washes down through my tightened chest, and as it reaches my stomach I feel like I might vomit. I feel dizzy and disorientated, but all just for a moment… until my brain hits the replay button and it starts all over again. I have been unfortunate to suffer from Vertigo in the past and the sensation is very similar.
Last year, it was considerably worse, especially when the Twins started to eat solids. Anyone that has seen my kids know they are far from underweight, yet I had all consuming constant panic about what they were eating and when they were eating. Then in November, my daughter had a health scare and I thought I might crumble altogether.
Most people who know me personally see me as the chilled type. I’m efficient yet relaxed and don’t let things get the better of me. On the other hand, I’m sure my husband thinks I’m crazy, but I suppose he gets to see it all. In reality, I’m just like most people, putting on a brave face at times, not for other people, but for myself. Because if I keep my chin up (how very British of me) I can pull myself through to a better place on the other side.
Do I think this is good advice? Not really. I should have gone to see someone with experience in postpartum anxiety last year when I was feeling really overwhelmed with things. I should still probably go and see someone because I haven’t slept properly in months. Note to self… the doctor is not going to roll her eyes and force Xanax down my throat.
What to do if you think you may be experiencing Postpartum anxiety after twins:
“One day I really shouted at Kasper for no reason other than my failing to deal with general 2-year-old nonsense. I was really scared by that, and I called the doctor as soon as I had calmed down and apologized to Kasper. I did a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy course, and the most useful thing I learned was to separate my worries into ‘helpful‘ (would prevent something bad happening) and ‘unhelpful‘ (things I have no control over).
Speak to people. Any people. I am the WORST at this, which is crazy because I talk to the internet all the time. I totally understand the reluctance to visit the doctor, and if you’re not ready to deal with that level of intervention, talk to someone else first. Family, friends, help groups… anyone who is an adult and can give sound advice. As twin moms, we tend to get out less and suffer cabin fever more than our singleton mom friends. So, get them to come to you, and tell them all the obscure thoughts you’re having in the middle of the night. Breaking the seal on saying it out loud might just give you the boost you need to get help.
And there’s alway me… send me an email. I’m a real person you know!
Further Reading on Postpartum anxiety after twins:
- *Australian Multiple Birth Association: Parents of twins or more are at high risk of anxiety and depression;
- The Telegraph: Mothers of twins and triplets more likely to suffer postnatal depression;
- The Seleni Institute: Living on the Edge.