Distressing thoughts and behaviours
It may surprise you to know that many of the thoughts that new mums with anxiety have are the same as other mums who do not have anxiety. The difference is that when you have anxiety you may get more distressed by negative thoughts and dwell on them more. In fact, nearly all new mothers experience intrusive thoughts. Understandably, this can be very distressing for some mums, as these thoughts often involve unpleasant scenarios or images. For example, research suggests nearly half of new mothers have intrusive thoughts about harming their child in some way. If you have experienced this and are worried about what this might mean, it is important to be kind to yourself. The very fact that you find these thoughts upsetting or worrying shows that you are a good and caring mother. Remember that thoughts do not accurately represent who you are, or what is going to happen in reality. They are just random thoughts that happen to pop into your head… and you have the power to challenge them. For example, if you have a thought about harming your child, look at your behaviour – most likely you have done nothing to suggest you would ever hurt your baby. In fact, research shows that the infants of mothers who have these thoughts are at no more risk of harm than other infants. None-the-less these types of thoughts can be very distressing, so if you are experiencing intrusive or distressing thoughts, you might want to visit our managing anxiety and challenging anxious thoughts self-help tools.
Many women who experience distressing thoughts do not tell anyone about their symtoms, as they are worried others might think they are a bad mother, or that social services will perceive them as a threat and take their baby away. However, this is unlikely to be the case. If you tell your GP, midwife or health visitor how you are feeling they will want to help you get better. This means you will stay at home with your baby and they will help you to get the support that you need.
Often when you talk to others about how you are feeling and recognise that this is a common thing it can make you start to feel better. Recognising the thoughts for what they are can help reduce their frequency, intensity and make them feel less frightening. Remember – having unwanted thoughts does not make you a bad mother.
Remember: Helping yourself, is also helping your baby.