Hudson Valley Parent

hvp October 092017

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Page 24 of 39 n Hudson Valley Parent 25 Although she did not feel that way, Emily was far from alone. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, about six percent of pregnant women experience anxiety before giving birth, and ten percent experience it after. Dr. Pierre-Louis believes the numbers in reality are actually far higher, as many women do not report their anxiety and try to deal with it alone. Perfect moms don't exist Anxiety has been on the rise in recent years, sometimes co-occurring with post-partum depression. "There is so much pressure to be a perfect mom from society, so many opportunities to compare yourself to other moms on social media, that moms today never get a break," Dr. Pierre-Louis says. "Add that to the stress of having a baby, and it can be really overwhelming." Women who had anxiety before getting pregnant or who have a family history of anxiety may be especially prone to developing anxiety while pregnant or after giving birth. But any new mom can be susceptible, thanks to the biological changes that occur during and after pregnancy. Recognizing the symptoms of anxiety is the first step to managing it. "Certainly mothers should be aware if their anxiety is interfering with their ability to take proper care of their children," says Dr. Jennifer Buchwald, a psychologist at the Hudson Valley Center for Cognitive Therapy in Upper Nyack. "Usually, anxiety is not this severe and typical signs include excessive, uncontrollable worry, crying, irritability and physical feelings of nervousness, such as palpitations, shakiness and feeling light headed. Depression can accompany anxiety and so women should also be aware of depressive symptoms, which can include sad or down mood, loss of pleasure in things they usually enjoy and negative thoughts about themselves, the future and the world around them." Problem solving to reduce anxiety While women struggling with anxiety or depression certainly feel despair, there are many ways to work through those feelings. Dr. Buchwald says the first step is to accept that some degree of anxiety is to be expected in motherhood, and that low levels of anxiety can actually be useful. "A good start is to ask yourself Is this a reasonable problem? Are there ways to problem-solve to make the situation better?" says Dr. Buchwald. "When the answer is yes, then the anxiety is actually helpful and women should focus on finding and implementing solutions." When the answer is no, though, working through the anxiety can require a little more work. Mothers can start by labeling concerns that are unlikely to happen or that cannot be practically remedied as an "unproductive worry" and attempt to shelve the concern. But Dr. Buchwald acknowledges that it is not always easy to leave anxious thoughts behind. "Unfortunately, it usually doesn't work to tell ourselves to stop thinking about something but women can learn ways to challenge their anxious thinking by putting the problem in perspective, asking themselves what advice they would give a friend in the same situation and asking themselves the probability of the situation actually happening," she says. Seek support when overwhelmed If that doesn't work, women can try relaxation techniques like mindfulness and deep breathing to ease physical tension and try to give themselves a better sense of control. (Continued on Page 26)

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