Treatment is important because continued anxiety affects the mother’s physical and mental health, as well as the bond between mother and child. If left untreated, it may also affect the child’s emotional and cognitive development.
An anxiety disorder is not a condition the person can “just snap out of” or “just stop thinking”. Professional assessment by a perinatal psychiatrist is required before the recommendation of treatment options.
Doctors may prescribe medication to treat the anxiety disorder, and options are available for pregnant or breastfeeding mothers. In some cases, the anxiety may be so intense that therapy would not be effective without medication for interim management. Discuss any concerns with your doctor, so you can collaboratively work out the best treatment plan for your situation.
One type of psychotherapy known as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) has been proven to be effective in treating anxiety. By learning ways to change your thoughts, behavior and reaction in certain situations, you learn to be less anxious and fearful.
In situations where the mother is very fearful of handling her baby or the mother-infant bond had been disrupted by illness, it can be helpful to have mother-infant therapy sessions, whereby the mother is encouraged to observe her baby’s cues and learns how to enjoy the process of interacting with her baby.
Practising relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation can be a useful way to calm the mind and body. Done regularly, it is like resetting your “stress meter” so that the effects of stress do not accumulate to unmanageable levels.