by Alyssa K. Davis
You hear about postpartum depression (PPD) all the time these days — thank goodness, as the condition was long ignored until gaining the attention it deserves in more recent years — but the conversation doesn’t extend much to cover an equally debilitating condition moms can also experience after giving birth: postpartum anxiety (PPA).
Cleveland Clinic defines PPA as “all-consuming” anxious feelings that are “often out of control and take over your thoughts,” which cause “irrational fears or excessive worries about events that are unlikely to happen.” The organization specifies that although the two conditions share many of the same symptoms, PPD and PPA are different disorders that can occur simultaneously.
According to Postpartum Support International, approximately 10% of women develop PPA, and while that percentage seems small, droves of women have come forward about experiencing severe anxiety after having a baby — including some of your favorite celebrities.
Dancing with the Stars pro Sharna Burgess has been extremely outspoken about PPA and intrusive thoughts since welcoming her son Zane in June 2022. In addition to sharing her experience on her Instagram, the Australian dancer also spoke to Good Morning America in December 2022 about how PPA affected her.
“I was doing great with postpartum and I definitely couldn’t say that I was struggling with postpartum depression, but I certainly struggled with those intrusive mom thoughts,” Burgess explained. “I had imagined the absolute worst-case scenario. And I felt myself having this panic attack, which I’ve never had a panic attack before,” she revealed.
Read on for more personal testimonies from famous women about experiencing and overcoming PPA — and remember that you’re not alone if you’re struggling with the condition, too.
In March 2020, Laura Prepon opened up to InStyle about experiencing postpartum anxiety before she even knew the condition existed. The actress explained, “When I had my daughter, Ella, in 2017, I was completely incapable of dealing with the level of anxiety that came into my life. Just the thought of taking her out of our house gave me a panic attack.”
She continued, “For a new mom, it’s usually a godsend when your baby is sleeping. But I was so scared she’d stop breathing in the middle of the night that I’d risk waking her up just to know she was still alive.” Prepon revealed that she was so “traumatized by the thought of what could happen,” she broke a tooth in half while she slept from grinding her teeth. “My need to protect this baby was debilitating,” she said.
On trying to figure out what was going on, the That 70s Show alum explained, “I truly felt like someone had hijacked my brain. It was scary. I had read plenty of books about pregnancy, but I couldn’t find anything I could relate to in terms of what would come after those nine months. You hear about postpartum depression, but I knew that was not me,” she said.
“After doing research, I came across postpartum anxiety. I had never heard those words before but quickly realized that was what was going on,” Prepon concluded.
“I had a lot of postpartum anxiety,” Jenna Dewan said on the Dear Gabby podcast of the months following her daughter Everly’s birth.
“It was like I just never stopped. You know, you’re up a couple times in the night, and you’re working all day,” she explained, adding, “I was breastfeeding, I was pumping, I was without a partner [due to ex-husband Channing Tatum’s work obligations]. I mean, it was just craziness.”
In October 2021, Rachel Platten got vulnerable with her Instagram followers about having postpartum anxiety for the second time. “I have postpartum anxiety again,” the “Fight Song” singer revealed.
“This [is a] daily mental rollercoaster that I’m on. A wave of irrational worry or fear or depression comes and it can knock me over if i don’t use all of my tools: compassion for myself is the biggest,” she explained. “But It also takes breath work, meditation, exercise, acupuncture medication (oh we’ll talk about this one later!!), therapy, tremendous support and vulnerability and courage to ride these waves.”
Platten continued, “I am not this runaway train of a brain that makes everything a problem and kept me up alone with insomnia for nights feeling hopeless. I am a beautiful soul, a whole being, who is taking it moment by moment and is courageously getting herself the support she needs.”
Lauren Bushnell Lane opened up about dealing with PPA in a September 2021 Instagram Story. “Balancing work, a 3-month-old, anxiety and hormones, lack of sleep and finding time for me has been a challenge,” The Bachelor alum admitted.
“I had a full-blown panic attack the other night and drove myself to the fire station thinking I was having an allergic reaction and my throat was closing [and my] legs were numb,” the mom of two shared. She added, “I’m heading to the doctor tomorrow to check a couple things and discuss my anxiety that has been through the roof.”
In March 2022, Olivia Munn opened up about how she was managing her PPA. Taking to her Instagram Story, the actress wrote, “My hips still feel wonky from pushing out a human being, my postpartum anxiety is still here (and horrible), but I got myself up and took my first capoeira lesson today.”
She added, “Getting back to martial arts made me feel a little bit more like myself. Hope I can keep it up.”
In addition to opening up about her “super dark thoughts” during her December 2022 Good Morning America interview, DWTS pro Sharna Burgess has also started a conversation about PPA on her Instagram.
“Intrusive mom thoughts …This is a real thing,” the Australian dancer wrote in a post that same month. “Honestly I thought it was something wrong with my brain at first. These super dark thoughts of all the things that could go wrong. All the ways I or life could accidentally hurt my baby. Falling down stairs holding him, sickness, a car accident.. the list is long but I won’t share it,” she resolved.
“5 months in and I still get them but I have learned to tame them and understand them and most of all … realized I am not alone. That last one was a huge relief,” she admitted, adding, “You’re doing great mama, remember that 🤍”
“PP is an ever-evolving journey. Those first 3 months, even though magical, there were lots of tears shed,” Jordan Pruitt Fuentes wrote on Instagram in March 2022.
“I remember my PP depression/anxiety kicked in around 6ish months. I couldn’t smile and didn’t know why,” the “Outside Looking In” singer explained, continuing, “I didn’t sleep a lot thinking [my daughter] could possibly suffocate in the middle of the night. Motherhood is no joke, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
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